In response to trends in criticism in recent decades, this special issue of Modern Language Quarterly
contains new essays by prominent literary critics reasserts and refreshes the crucial importance of studying form for a productive understanding of complex issues that have frequently been oversimplified.
It includes Heather Dubrow, answering New Historicist accounts of country house ideology, J. Paul Hunter reclaiming attention to eighteenth-century couplet structures, and Garrett Stewart arguing for the comprehensive import of the local syntactic forms in syllepsis in Dickens. Ronald Levao recovers the ethical urgency behind stylistic individuation in Milton; Frances Ferguson reveals the ideology of character within Austen’s free indirect discourse; Franco Moretti traces the history of the clue as formal device in detective fiction; and Robert Kaufman shows how formal dynamics derived from Kant and Adorno animate some of the most disruptive contemporary poetry. The history of formalism is the topic of Catherine Gallagher’s meditation on the dialogue of form and time since Percy Shelley and of Virgil Nemoianu’s account of the political vicissitudes of form in the twentieth century. These wide-ranging critical interventions are introduced by Susan Wolfson’s reflections on form today and by Ellen Rooney’s polemical appeal to cultural theorists not to defeat their purposes by neglecting form.
Contributors. Heather Dubrow, Frances Ferguson, Catherine Gallagher, J. Paul Hunter, Robert Kaufman, Ronald Levao, Franco Moretti, Virgil Nemoianu, Ellen Rooney, Garrett Stewart