Fame and Glory 
The Classic, the Canon and the Literary Pantheon

Edited by Jessica Goodman and Elizabeth Benjamin

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CC BY 4.0
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MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities 8

Modern Humanities Research Association

23 December 2013

Open Access with doi: 10.59860/wph.i8d2636




Fame and Glory: The Classic, the Canon and the Literary Pantheon
Elizabeth Benjamin, Jessica Goodman
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Metaphors of Genre Inequality in Iurii Tynianov’s ‘The Literary Fact’
Robert Daly

Iurii Tynianov was one of the leading figures in the Society for the Study of Poetic Language [OPOIAZ], a group of literary theorists and linguists founded in Petrograd around 1916, which constituted one of the two hubs of a movement now better known as Russian Formalism, the other being the Moscow Linguistic Circle. His principal interest as a theorist was the process that he termed ‘literary evolution’, which he explored in detail in his two major theoretical articles of the 1920s, ‘The Literary Fact’ (1924) and ‘On Literary Evolution’ (1927). In both of these articles, literary genre is the basic unit of analysis. This paper will focus on the representation of the inequality among literary genres, the unstable position of one genre relative to others, in the first of these articles, ‘The Literary Fact’. This first theoretical article, written during a period of relative calm for the Formalists, is much more digressive and suggestive than the second, ‘On Literary Evolution’, a condensed and tightly structured piece presented as a numbered list of theses. It therefore offers a more direct insight into the origins of Tynianov’s ideas.2 The aims of this approach are, first, to demonstrate that in ‘The Literary Fact’ Tynianov uses at least three different metaphors to represent the inequality among literary genres; secondly, to reveal, through an examination of the immediate context in which he uses them, that each of these metaphors is associated with a different theory of historical development; and, thirdly, to anchor this highly suggestive use of metaphor within the context of the development of Formalism. This approach raises broader questions both about the language of literary scholarship, which cannot be overlooked as a neutral means of expression, and about the multiplicity of extra-literary forces that determine literary inequalities.


Fame and Glory in Dante’s Commedia: Problematising Purgatorio XI
Julia Caterina Hartley

Anyone who has read the Divine Comedy will find it hard to disagree with Erich Auerbach’s observation that Dante ‘pits himself against his time in anticipation of earthly fame and beatitude in the hereafter’. Dante’s self-representation as a wronged poet, suffering in life while he awaits the highest of deferred gratifications – celebrity and salvation – continues to provoke emotional responses in his readers. But this assessment ignores the problematic fact that lust for fame is a worldly, and therefore un-Christian, desire. While the current status of Dante’s soul may lie outside the remit of this discussion, we do know for certain that his bid for fame was a successful one. Dante circulated the Divine Comedy as it was being written, in installments of six to eight cantos. The poem was instantly popular, and the fact that it was written in the vernacular also made it accessible to those who did not read Latin and to non-reading oral audiences. Readers’ admiration for the poem is even encapsulated in the title as we know it today: the adjective ‘Divina’ was only added in 1555. Dante’s work is on the syllabus of all modern Italian secondary schools and the visual image of the bitter, hook-nosed poet has long entered Italian popular culture.


Rising to Fame: C.P. Cavafy’s Journey to Worldwide Recognition
Foteini Dimirouli

In 2008, the Oxford World’s Classics series published a collected edition of C.P. Cavafy’s poems. This publishing event represents Cavafy’s privileged status within the contemporary canon but masks the long and contested history of his rise to worldwide recognition. Cavafy was first known as a literary curiosity of the Greek diaspora who aspired to national significance from the margins of Alexandria, but only secured a central place in mainstream Greek literary life after many years of fluctuating cultural reception. In parallel, Cavafy’s readership slowly expanded across Europe and the rest of the globe, culminating in his establishment at the end of the century as the most well-known and celebrated writer of Greek origin worldwide. This article explores some key moments in those two rising trajectories, by focusing on a number of examples from the Anglophone world, while also considering the poet’s place in the Greek context.


Rewriting Classical Myths: the Case of Penelope
Serena Alessi

The Odyssey is the classic par excellence of Western literature. Every epoch that needs to validate its roots comes back to Ulysses, whose story has been rewritten endless times and brought back to life by as many authors. James Joyce, Constantine Cavafy and Derek Walcott are just some of the best-known re-tellers of the Homeric poem. The Odyssey’s plot is particularly well suited to reproduction and retelling in different times and different cultural contexts. To its linear story – a man wandering over land and sea for many years and his fight to re-conquer his kingdom and his wife – a variety of subplots can be added, for example digressions on the characters encountered by Ulysses in his adventures, or parentheses on life in Ithaca in the absence of the King. The twentieth century is perhaps the time during which the most interesting developments involving the Odyssey, its plot and its symbols, take place. Authors of rewrites are attracted by non-dominant characters, by what has not been said by the canon, by marginal stories and consequences taken for granted; sometimes the new versions they produce even enter the canon and become ‘modern classics’, as is the case with James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). Among all the characters of the Odyssey who undergo such rewriting, one in particular stands out in modern times for her strong contrast with the image assigned to her by tradition, and as a particularly fruitful example of the metamorphosis of Homeric character: Penelope.


Bibliography entry:

Goodman, Jessica, and Elizabeth Benjamin (eds), Fame and Glory: The Classic, the Canon and the Literary Pantheon (= MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 8 (2013)) <https://www.mhra.org.uk/publications/wph-8> [accessed 19 June 2024]

First footnote reference: 35 Fame and Glory: The Classic, the Canon and the Literary Pantheon, ed. by Jessica Goodman and Elizabeth Benjamin (= MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 8 (2013)) <https://www.mhra.org.uk/publications/wph-8> [accessed 19 June 2024], p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Goodman and Benjamin, p. 47.

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Bibliography entry:

Goodman, Jessica, and Elizabeth Benjamin (eds). 2013. Fame and Glory: The Classic, the Canon and the Literary Pantheon (= MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 8) <https://www.mhra.org.uk/publications/wph-8> [accessed 19 June 2024]

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Goodman and Benjamin 2013: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Goodman and Benjamin 2013: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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