Patrick Cheney becomes the fourth Connelly Lecturer in Fall 2011.
Patrick is a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Patrick Cheney is a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Penn State University, where he specializes in Renaissance literature. Professor Cheney has written six monographs, including Marlowe’s Republican Authorship: Lucan, Liberty, and the Sublime (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Shakespeare’s Literary Authorship (Cambridge, 2008), Shakespeare, National Poet-Playwright (Cambridge, 2004), Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood (University of Toronto Press, 1997) and Spenser's Famous Flight: A Renaissance Idea of a Literary Career (University of Toronto Press, 1993). A prolific scholar, Professor Cheney has published over 60 articles, book chapters, and introductions. He has edited and co-edited editions of the poetry of Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare, as well as essay collections such as The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Poetry, The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe, European Literary Careers: The Author from Antiquity to the Renaissance (University of Toronto Press, 2002), and Worldmaking Spenser: Explorations in the Early Modern Age (University Press of Kentucky, 2000). Professor Cheney is currently serving as the general editor of the twelve-volume Oxford History of Poetry in English. In 2011, Professor Cheney was awarded a Faculty Scholar Medal from Penn State in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the fields of Shakespeare and authorship studies.
Public Lecture: Wednesday, October 5, 8:00 pm, JRC 101: "Heroic Intimacy: A Literary History, Homer to Milton"
Recent scholarship identifies intimacy as the heart of modern notions of identity, but does not find a gold standard set till Pamela’s wedding night in Richardson’s 1740 novel. A new line of research, however, might locate an earlier standard in a work important to the eighteenth-century novel, including Richardson’s: Paradise Lost. In this Christian epic, Milton offers an acute reading of the Western literary, religious, and philosophical traditions of marriage-identity in the stunningly erotic relationship between Adam and Eve. While no doubt working from the Hebraic story of the couple in Genesis, as well as Aristophanes’ comic Greek myth of the hermaphrodite in Plato’s Symposium and the tragic Roman narrative of Dido and Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid, Milton likely took the originary cue of Homer’s Odyssey when organizing the epic form around the idea of heroic intimacy. For in Book 23 Homer narrates a remarkable dialogue between husband and wife; Penelope uses the device of the “olive bed” to get the long-absent Odysseus to reveal his identity to her: “you have revealed such overwhelming proof-- / the secret sign of our bed, which no one’s ever seen / but you and I” (23.253-55). From the Odyssey, a literary history leading to Milton unfolds, with Augustine, Dante, Petrarch, and Chaucer playing key roles for the first modern English poets of heroic intimacy: Surrey, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Donne. Each of these (and others) leads to our first parents, where, in Milton’s caring hands, we witness the heart-rending conclusion to Paradise Lost, which the present literary history seeks merely to gloss: “They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, / Through Eden took their solitary way” (12.648-49).
Talk for the English majors: Thursday, October 6, 4:15pm, ARH 302: "The Longinian Sublime: A New Classroom Model of Literary Criticism"
Today, students of English literature tend to learn a model of literary criticism that derives from Aristotle, Horace, and Sidney; this model finds its modern fruition in New Historicism and such political activism as the work of Adrienne Rich. According to this model, literature has a political function, is grounded in an engagement with history, and centers on the subject’s institutional relation to power. In English Renaissance studies, such a model usually foregrounds an ethical paradigm of patriotic nationalism leading to eternity. During the sixteenth century, however, a new model of literary criticism emerges, one that features the role of the author as a leader in society because he or she fictionalizes literary greatness. The premier theorist is the 1st-century Greek Longinus, whose On Sublimity is first printed in 1554. The sublime is Longinus’ counter-national principle that replaces goodness with greatness, equilibrium with ecstasy, and self-regulated passion with heightened emotion. For Longinus, the sublime is an emotional principle of authorship, written in the grand style, in imitation of great works, and aiming for fame. Under the spell of sublimity, the author tells a story about the making of a great literary work. By centering the story on the “interval between earth and heaven,” a sublime work produces either terror or rapture, leaving the human in the exalted condition of the gods. Instead of Orpheus civilizing nature, or Amphion building Thebes, Longinus figures the sublime in the withdrawn priestess at Delphi ravished by the god. Longinus does not say that the sublime author creates a “democracy” but simply that a democracy houses the sublime author. Thus a politics of the sublime reverses the model linking Aristotle to Rich: freedom is not the goal of literature but its fundamental precondition. Poems and plays by Shakespeare and colleagues help build a bridge from Chaucer to Milton to form an “early modern sublime,” neglected in scholarship. The key bridging figure is Spenser, whose canon betrays an entry into Longinian ekstasis. Playing a centralizing role in the advent of modern English authorship, the early modern sublime becomes a catalyst in the formation of an English canon; it also helps explain why, for post-Enlightenment writers like Kant and Coleridge, the sublime becomes “the preeminent modern aesthetic category.” More than Aristotle and Company, Longinus offers an instrumental model of why students might find themselves drawn to English literature: freely, we are transported by it.