Literary Criticism & Theory

Bad Object

dddif_28_1_cover.jpgThe most recent issue of differences, “Bad Object,” returns to the work of the journal’s founding co-editor Naomi Schor, a leading scholar in feminist and critical theory. This issue takes as its starting point Schor’s book Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular (1995), in which she discussed her attraction to the “bad objects” the academy had overlooked or ignored: universalism, essentialism, and feminism. Underpinning these bad objects was her mourning of the literary, a sense that her work—and feminist theory more generally—had departed from the textual readings in which they were grounded.  

Schor’s question at the time was “Will a new feminist literary criticism arise that will take literariness seriously while maintaining its vital ideological edge?” The contributors to this issue take that literariness—the “bad object”— and her question seriously.

From the editor’s note:

“This is not a thematic issue; we did not ask contributors to address the question of language, or the new formalism, or debates about reading, nor to engage literary texts—though all those things were welcome. Our wager was that the essays, collected as a “Bad Object,” would be at once an invigorating and unsettling reading experience and would thus “speak for themselves.”

Read an essay from the issue, made freely available, and revisit Schor’s original book.

Stuart Hall’s First Encounter with London

In this excerpt from Stuart Hall’s new memoir, Familiar Stranger: A Life between Two Islands, he describes his trip with his mother, Jessie, from Jamaica to the United Kingdom. Hall had earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University and the two traveled there together in 1951. Enjoy the excerpt and then buy the book for 30% off with coupon E17FAMST.

978-0-8223-6387-3_pr w strokeIt is uncannily disconcerting to look back at my younger self, arriving in the port of Avonmouth in 1951, ready for a new life but absolutely unsure how it would happen, or what it would look like if it did. I was indeed elsewhere! I can say, however, that the colonial experience prepared me for England. Far from being an untroubled, innocent opportunity for me to step out into something new, this was an encounter which was mightily overdetermined.

My arrival preceded by some three months the general election in October in which the Conservatives ousted Labour and Winston Churchill regained the office of Prime Minister. After a short while I headed for Oxford University, into the very cultural heartland of England.

But this was an encounter which has not yet come to an end. It continues. It was, as Donald Hinds termed it a long while ago, ‘a journey to an illusion’ – or rather, a journey to the shattering of illusions, inaugurating a process of protracted disenchantment. I didn’t really know what I would find or what I would do with ‘it’ if I found ‘it’. I knew I didn’t want to be ‘it’, whatever that was. But I did want to encounter in the flesh, as it were, this phantasm of ‘other worlds’, swollen with – as it happened – false promise. What I really knew about Britain turned out to be a bewildering farrago of reality and fantasy. However, such illusions as I may have taken with me were unrealized because, fortunately, they were unrealizable. The episode was painful as well as exciting. It changed me irrevocably, almost none of it in ways I had remotely anticipated.

The whole experience was eerily familiar and disconcertingly strange at the same time. One can attribute this to the sense of déjà‑vu which assails colonial travellers on first encountering face-to-face the imperial metropole, which they actually know only in its translated form through a colonial haze, but which has always functioned as their ‘constitutive outside’: constituting them, or us, by its absence, because it is what they – we – are not. This is a manner of being defined from the beyond!

On the boat train to London, I kept feeling I’d seen this place somewhere before, as in a screen memory. It provoked a deep psychic recognition, an illusory after-effect. Had I been here before? Yes and no. I hadn’t anticipated what the English countryside would look like but, once I saw it whizzing past the train windows, I knew that this was how it should look: those proper, well-fed, black-and-white cows munching away contentedly in their neatly divided, hedgerowed fields surrounded by enormous, spreading sycamore trees. Everything I had read had prepared me for that. I knew, after all, the novels of Thomas Hardy. On the other hand, nothing had prepared me for the stark contrast between the sombre brick-and-cement hues and the well-disciplined dark, monotone character of London streets and the chaotic bustle of Kingston street life, with people shoving past one another on the crowded pavements, the handcarts and ice barrows with their rows of syrup bottles, the raucous hubbub and teeming vitality, provincial as it was.

London, when we got there, felt unwelcoming and forbidding. I guess my memories must have been infiltrated by what happened later, for what immediately comes to mind is the heavy, leaden autumn sky, the light permanently stuck halfway to dusk, the constant fine drizzle (where was the proper rain, the tropical downpour?), the blank windows of the square black cabs, the anonymity of the faces in the red double-decker buses, the yellow headlights glistening off the wet tarmac along the Bayswater Road. A dark, shuttered, anonymous city; high blocks of mansion flats,
turning up their noses at the life of the streets below. Everyone was buttoned up in dark suits, overcoats and hats, many carrying the proverbial umbrellas, scurrying with downcast eyes through the gathering gloom to unknown destinations. This was post-war austerity London, with its bombed-out sites, rubble and gaping spaces like missing teeth. A faint mist permanently shrouded Hyde Park, where ladies in jodhpurs and hard riding hats cantered their horses in the early mornings; the lights blazed in the Oxford Street department stores by three in the afternoon. There must have been bright and sunny days, for it was only the end of summer. But I don’t remember them.

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Slavoj Žižek: In Defense of a Lost Cause

sbriglia - author photoHappy birthday to renowned philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek! Today’s guest blog post comes from Russell Sbriglia, editor of the new collection Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek.

Today marks the 68th birthday of Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek. In my recent collection for Duke University Press, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek, I make the case for Žižek’s relevance for literary studies—a relevance long overshadowed by the work done on Žižek in other fields such as film, media, and cultural studies. On this particular occasion, however, I’d like to make the case for Žižek’s continued relevance as a political thinker. Žižek has come under heavy fire of late for a number of his public positions, most notably those regarding the Syrian refugee crisis and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. For those well-versed in and sympathetic to Žižek’s work, there is little that is controversial, let alone “conservative,” about these stances. Yet there now seems to be an entire cottage industry devoted to misreading and misinterpreting Žižek.

978-0-8223-6318-7Consider, for instance, his claim that, were he a U.S. citizen, he would have voted for Donald Trump rather than Hillary Clinton in last year’s election. His point was not to “endorse Trump,” as one article headline ridiculously proclaimed (Žižek has said time and again that Trump is an absolutely vulgar and disgusting figure who represents the decline of public decency), but rather to emphasize that a vote for Clinton would be a vote for the neoliberal status quo. The curious thing is that many of those who excoriated Žižek for taking such a position are the very same people who have long laughed at Francis Fukuyama’s thesis regarding the “end of history.” Fukuyama, in his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, (in)famously argued that with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism, political history had effectively come to an end. From here on out, history would consist of the gradual yet inevitable democratization of the world under the regime of global capitalism. Laugh at Fukuyama though they will, the reaction by many on the left to Žižek’s hypothetical vote for Trump as a means of accelerating the contradictions of late capitalism suggests an implicit confirmation of the Fukuyaman thesis. For a vast majority of liberals, democratic capitalism still remains, as Marcel Gauchet has said of liberal democracy, “l’horizon indépassable,” an impassable horizon. Hence Žižek’s frequent reiteration of Fredric Jameson’s famous line that “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

Even after Clinton’s Electoral College loss—a loss due in part to the fact that Trump was able to capitalize on the DNC’s sacrifice of Bernie Sanders, filling the vacuum left by Sanders’s democratic socialism with a faux populist nationalism—a number of Democrats seem bent on maintaining the neoliberal status quo. Take, for example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s comments from a CNN Town Hall in late January. Citing a recent Harvard University poll which showed that a majority of people between the ages of 18 and 29 no longer support the capitalist system, an NYU student asked Pelosi whether she could envision the Democratic Party “mov[ing] farther left to a more populist message” that would make for “a more stark contrast to right-wing economics.” Pelosi’s immediate response was as follows: “Well, I thank you for your question. But I have to say, we’re capitalist. That’s just the way it is.” This is precisely the type of “inertia” that Žižek saw in Clinton, who in attempting to appeal to both Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street ended up running on a platform that was as anodyne as it was amorphous. On this issue in particular, if Žižek is a lost cause, then so are we.

The good news amidst the many horrors of the past two months is that we are now beginning to see signs that perhaps Žižek was correct about Trump mobilizing the left. Though Žižek often quips that the left never likes to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, the numerous women’s marches that were held around the globe the day after Trump took office, the protests at airports across the U.S. following the Trump Administration’s initial Muslim ban, and the fiery Republican town halls at which constituents are voicing (and venting) their concerns over a possible repeal of Obamacare all suggest that a political awakening may very well be underway on the left. If this proves to truly be the case, if the left does indeed have the courage to “resume” history, then we’re going to need Žižek more than ever.

Want more Žižek? Read the introduction to Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek, edited by Russell Sbriglia, or save 30% on the paperback using coupon code E17ZIZEK.

Open Access at Duke University Press: Blog Series Highlights

open-access-efforts-at-duke-university-pressOver the past week we have shared a series of four blog posts covering open access at Duke University Press. Topics in the series included Project Euclid, Knowledge Unlatched, Environmental Humanities, and The Carlyle Letters Online.

Leslie Eager, Director of Publishing Services for Project Euclid, shared information about the platform and the ways it supports open access in the mathematics and statistics world.

Steve Cohn, Director of Duke University Press, offered information about how we’ve participated with Knowledge Unlatched in the past and why we’ll continue in the future.

Brent Kinser, coordinating editor for The Carlyle Letters Online, shared his thoughts on the project and discussed his vision for its future.

We highlighted some of the exciting new content from the open-access journal Environmental Humanities, edited by Thom van Dooren and Elizabeth DeLoughrey, and the relationship between the journal and its five leading research university partners.

To learn more about these open-access initiatives at Duke University Press, read our previous blog posts.

Open Access: The Carlyle Letters Online

We have created a series of five blog posts covering Open Access at Duke University Press. Today’s post features The Carlyle Letters Online, a digital archive based on the Duke-Edinburgh edition of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle.

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The Carlyle Letters Online (CLO) provides free access to the letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, an outstanding resource in Victorian literature, philosophy, and culture. During their marriage and throughout the middle of the nineteenth century, the couple wrote over 10,000 letters to a circle of well-respected contemporaries, such as Charles Dickens, John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. After a multiyear development process, the letters debuted digitally in 2006 and have remained open access, averaging nearly 20,000 unique views a month since its move to a new platform.

Features of the platform
In July 2016 the CLO migrated to a new platform hosted by the University of South Carolina Center for Digital Humanities (USC-CDH). This platform included new features such as an updated look, a tweaked letter viewer, and the ability to enlarge certain images and words for easier engagement with the content.  Users also have immediate access to the raw XML code of each letter on this new platform. These features provide readers, especially those involved with the digital humanities, with a more streamlined reading experience. The new platform employs both whole-word searching (which searches exact phrases) and fuzzy searching (which finds matches when users misspell words or enter only partial words). Using these two search options, users can filter letters by volume, date, recipient, and subject.
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The Future of the CLO

The move to USC-CDH’s platform has created the opportunity to display manuscript images, a feature that will soon be available on the site through a new manuscript image viewer as opposed to PDF attachments. The Rare Books Library at Columbia University is also digitizing the Carlyle family photograph albums, which will soon be hosted alongside the letters on the new platform.

Meanwhile, the completion of the print edition of the Carlyle Project looms on the horizon, and with it the digitation of the letters. But while the last volume of the letters is projected to be added to the CLO in 2021, the CLO project will not end there. Coordinating editor Brent Kinser hopes to see the CLO evolve to meet the needs of its users and of changing technology, paving the way for other digital databases on Victorian life to thrive, such as the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium.

“In the post-truth age of fake news, anyone interested in the pursuit of truth and knowledge and wisdom needs to double their efforts to envision, build, and maintain sites that offer new ways of exploring the past and the present, which Carlyle dubbed ‘the conflux of two eternities,’ both of which help to shape the future,” Kinser says. “Truth may be out of fashion, but if it goes forever, we are, all of us, lost. But as Carlyle once said, ‘The World is the Place of Hope.’ Let us be of good hope. Efforts such as the CLO have an important part to play. The results need to be made available to as many people in as many places as possible. That means open access.”

Stay up to date with the Carlyles on Twitter by following @carlyleletters.

New Books in February

Can you believe it’s already February? Our Spring 2017 season is in full swing. Check out these new books dropping this month:

misinterpellated-subject-coverIn The Misinterpellated SubjectJames R. Martel complicates Louis Althusser’s theory of interpellation, using historical and literary analyses ranging from the Haitian Revolution to Ta-Nehisi Coates to examine the political and revolutionary potential inherent in the instances when people heed the state’s call that was not meant for them.

Fans of literature and iconic literary theorist Slavoj Žižek shouldzizek-cover enjoy Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask ŽižekThis volume demonstrates the importance of Slavoj Žižek’s work to literary criticism and theory by showing how his practice of reading theory and literature can be used in numerous theoretical frameworks and applied to literature across historical periods, nationalities, and genres, creating new interpretations of familiar works.

dying-in-full-detail-coverIn analyses of digital death footage—from victims of police brutality to those who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge—Jennifer Malkowski’s Dying in Full Detail considers the immense changes digital technologies have introduced in the ability to record and display actual deaths—one of documentary’s most taboo and politically volatile subjects.

Mark Rifkin’s Beyond Settler Time disrupts settler temporalbeyond-settler-time-cover frameworks. Rifkin explores how Indigenous experiences with time and the dominance of settler colonial conceptions of temporality have affected Native peoplehood and sovereignty, thereby rethinking the very terms by which history is created and organized around time by.

magic-of-concepts-coverIn The Magic of ConceptsRebecca E. Karl interrogates the concept and practice of “the economic” as it was understood in China in the 1930s and the 1980s and 90s, showing how the use of Eurocentric philosophies, narratives, and conceptions of the economic that exist outside lived experiences fail to capture modern China’s complex history.

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, in his latest book Pharmocracyworks atpharmocracy-cover the confluence of politics and racial capitalism. He traces the structure and operation of what he calls pharmocracy—a concept explaining the global hegemony of the multinational pharmaceutical industry. He outlines pharmocracy’s logic in two case studies from contemporary India to demonstrate the stakes of its intersection with health, politics, democracy, and global capital.

Want to make sure you don’t miss a new book? Sign up for Subject Matters, our  e-mail newsletter.

2017 Modern Language Association Highlights and Wrap-Up

We had a great time selling books and journals, meeting authors, and congratulating award-winners at the 2017 annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (MLA) in Philadelphia last week. Thank you to all who stopped by our exhibit booth to browse and buy. In case you couldn’t attend, here are some conference highlights!

The convention kicked off with the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) awards on Thursday. Congratulations again to David Scott, editor of Small Axe, for his 2016 Distinguished Editor Award! Read more about David Scott, the award, and Small Axe here.

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Nadia Ellis, author of Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora

Several Duke authors were also honored with awards this year. Nadia Ellis won the William Sanders Scarborough Prize Honorable Mention for her book, Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora.

From the GL/Q Caucus of the MLA, Petrus Liu won the Alan Bray Memorial Book Prize Honorable Mention for his book, Queer Marxism in Two Chinas.

Jose David Saldivar, co-editor of Junot Diaz and the Decolonial Imagination and author of Trans-Americanity, was awarded the American Literature Society’s Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies.

Jasbir K. Puar, author of the Social Text #124 article “Bodies with New Organs: Becoming Trans, Becoming Disabled,” won the GL/Q Caucus’s Crompton-Noll Prize for Best LGBTQ Studies Article. Read the article, made freely available.

A Friday reception celebrated the minnesota review and Mediations.0106171938a

We were also happy to see some of our authors and journal editors stop by our booth. Here are a few photos:

Couldn’t make it to the convention? Are there still books you want to buy but couldn’t fit in your suitcase? Don’t worry—you can still stock up on books and journals at dukeupress.edu using our conference discount. Just use coupon code MLA17 at checkout through the end of February!

David Scott wins CELJ Distinguished Editor Award for 2016

0105171630Congratulations to David Scott, editor of Small Axe, for his 2016 Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) Distinguished Editor Award. The awards were announced on Thursday, January 5, 2017, during the 2017 Modern Language Association annual meeting held in Philadelphia.

The Distinguished Editor Award is given to an editor who has had a major influence on the field of scholarship in which they publish. Small Axe focuses on publishing critical work that examines the ideas that guided the formation of Caribbean modernities. It mainly includes scholarly articles, opinion essays, and interviews, but it also includes literary works of fiction and poetry, visual arts, and reviews.

ddsmx_20_2_50The journal, now in its 20th volume, just published its 50th issue, “What is Journal Work?” which features a preface by David Scott on the journal and the ethos of journal work. From the preface:

When, in the company of a few fellow travelers, I initiated Small Axe in Kingston in 1996–97, many people said to me, confidentially and with my interest in view, that it would be at best a short-lived enterprise. It was grand, yes, ambitious even, but it wouldn’t last. That was always the thing—it wouldn’t last. Nothing like it did. The Caribbean is awash, they knowingly said, with well-intentioned initiatives that run aground sooner than later. In fact, nothing is more characteristic of Caribbean intellectual life than this penchant for starting new ventures that never have any chance whatsoever of reproducing themselves. And so on . . . Now, honestly,I never took these prophecies of doom to be expressions of ill will, of what Jamaicans lyrically call badmindedness—though of course they might well have been. After all, the truth is that I too was wondering, not because of a wavering or uncertain commitment on my part, need‐less to say, but as a matter, if you like, of thinking the future in the present. Beginnings are one thing, hard enough, to be sure. But what would “lasting” mean? What would be the point at which Small Axe could be said to have “lasted”? These were, in part, abstract questions(in any case, I brushed them aside) because although I was always self-conscious of seeking something larger in the Small Axe initiative (remember, New World Quarterly and Savacou were the models I had before me, and they styled themselves as expressions of “movements”), I was at that early point literally feeling my way from one issue of the journal to the next. And from the haphazard and chaotic inside of each of these issues, encountering and resolving their specific challenges, it was impossible to discern what they would add up to—whether the shape of something more than the sum of all the issues put together would emerge from within what we were anyway carrying on with.

David Scott has edited Small Axe since its inception in 1997. To learn more about the journal and to read a sample issue, visit smallaxe.dukejournals.org.

Norman Foerster 2016 Prize Winner Announced

ddal_88_3This year’s winner of the Norman Foerster Prize for the best essay published annually in American Literature has been selected. Congratulations to Meina Yates-Richard, winner of the 2016 Foerster Prize for her essay “‘WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER’S NAME?’: Maternal Disavowal and the Reverberating Aesthetic of Black Women’s Pain in Black Nationalist Literature,” featured in volume 88, issue 3. The selection committee, comprised of Michael Elliot, Nihad Farooq, Zita Cristina Nunes, Matthew Taylor, and Priscilla Wald, wrote of Yates-Richard’s winning essay:

In a field of distinguished work, Yates-Richard’s article stood out for us by tracing a compelling, provocative genealogy of black maternal sound and its relationship to black nationalism. By attending to the screams and songs of African-American women, Yates-Richard in this piece shows how black nationalism has both required and sacrificed the vocalizations of women. The result is an article that charts a textual tradition from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative to Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and that raises important questions about the political work of such figurations. We are truly pleased to be able to recognize this path-breaking scholarship.

Additionally, there were two honorable mentions for this year’s contest. Congratulations to Mary Grace Albanese and James Dawes!

The selection committee chose Mary Grace Albanese’s essay “Uncle Tom across the Sea (and Back),” from volume 88, issue 4, for its innovative and thoroughly researched reconsideration of Uncle Tom’s Cabin within the context of Haitian politics and its comprehensive, multilingual readings of American literary history. In constructing a genealogy of the Haitain appropriations of Stowe’s novel, Albanese reminds us of the unpredictability of literary translation across national boundaries and the significance of hemispheric literary histories.

They chose James Dawes’s essay “The Novel of Human Rights,” from volume 88, issue 1, for its vital, challenging, and open-ended readings about the political urgency of the novel, and how the representation of atrocity exerts pressure on the form itself. This is a significant, provocative intervention in American literary studies—a stimulating call for us to rethink the relationship of literary genre to the most pressing political questions of our time.

Congratulations to Meina Yates-Richard and both honorable mentions! Read all the articles above, made freely available.

A Tale of Two Marriages: the Carlyles and the Brownings

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The “A Tale of Two Marriages” speakers.

Thomas Carlyle’s 221st birthday was yesterday, 4 December. In his honor, we are sharing several lectures on Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle given by Carlyle scholars Brent Kinser and David Sorensen last May at the Carlyle House in Chelsea. The event, “A Tale of Two Marriages,” included Kinser and Sorensen’s talks on the Carlyles and two talks on the marriage of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert Browning, by distinguished Browning scholars Simon Avery and Scott Lewis. The event compared and contrasted the relationships of the two couples through the lens of Victorian marriages.

Read the full versions of the talks from David Sorensen and Brent Kinser by selecting the titles of the lectures. We have included excerpts from the talks below.

An excerpt from David Sorensen’s talk, “Selective Affinities: The Browning and Carlyle Marriages Through Their Correspondence

 The Browning and Carlyle marriages were unusual in their own time because of the manner in which they lived up to the ideal of a union between equals, which many members of the Victorian intelligentsia championed. In The Subjection of Women (1869) the philosopher John Stuart Mill memorably denounced the Victorian “command and obedience” model of marriage and insisted on the primacy of mental compatibility between men and women in the conjugal sphere. Mutual intelligence, both emotional and psychological, inevitably fostered mutual interests. As Mill pointed out, “when each of two persons, instead of being a nothing, is a something; when they are attached to one another, and are not too much unlike to begin with; the constant partaking in the same things, assisted by their sympathy, draws out the latent capacities of each for being interested in the things which were at first interesting only to the other; and works a gradual assimilation of the tastes and characters to one another … by a real enriching of the two natures, each acquiring the tastes and capacities of the other in addition to its own.” The result of this interaction, conducted on a basis of respect and curiosity, was the creation of a “solid friendship, of an enduring character, more likely than anything else to make it, through the whole of life, a greater pleasure to each to give pleasure to the other than to receive it.” In these remarks Mill set a standard that some thought was too high. One remembers Mrs. Allonby’s remarks in Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance (1903): “How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?”

An exerpt from Brent Kinser’s talk, “The Tautology of Prose and Poetry in the Carlyle and Browning Marriages

For the Carlyles, marriage began as a matter of prose. In the months before the Carlyles married in 1826, Thomas wrote long missives to Jane out of deeply anxious insecurity regarding his prospects. At one point, he made the mistake of telling her that if there was another suitor she would prefer, then she was free to accept the offer. Her response says much:

But surely, surely Mr Carlyle, you must know me better, than to have supposed it possible I should ever make a new choice! To say nothing of the sentiments I entertain towards you, which would make a marriage with another worse than death; is there no spark of honour, think you, in this heart, that I should not blush at the bare idea of such shame? Give myself to another, after having given myself with such unreservedness to you! Take another to my arms, with your image on my heart, your kisses on my lips! Oh be honest, and say you knew this would never be,—knew I could never sink so low! Let me not have room to suppose, that possessing your love, I am unfortunate enough to be without your respect! For how light must my open fondness have seemed; if you doubted of its being sanctified by a marriage-vow—a vow spoken, indeed, before no Minister, but before a presence, surely as awful, God and my Conscience— And yet, it is so unlike you, the sworn enemy of cant, to make high-sounding offers, in the firm confidence of their being rejected! and unless I lay this to your charge in the present instance how can I help concluding that there is some virtue in me, which you have yet to learn?— For it is in no jesting, or yet “half-jesting” manner that you tell me my hand is free— “If there be any other—you do not mean whom I love more—but whose wife all things considered I would rather be; you call upon me as my Husband—(as my Husband!) to accept that man.” Were these words really Thomas Carlyle’s, and addressed to me? Ah! ich kenne dich nicht mehr! Dearest! Dearest! it will take many caresses to atone for these words! (CLO: JBW to TC, [4 March 1826]

The Carlyles’ move towards marriage seems a long way from “I love your poems, and I love you, too,” the legendary beginning of the Brownings’ courtship.

2016-05-26-00-59-28For more on the Brownings, read the talk by Scott Lewis, “‘Penini means to be very good tomorrow’: The Browning Marriage and Their Son,” and the talk by Simon Avery, “Love, Marriage and Violence in the Work of the Brownings.”

Stay connected! Learn more about Carlyle’s friendship with Elizabeth Barrett Browning at the Carlyle Letters Online. To learn more about the Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle and to read their many letters, visit the Carlyle Letters Online. Follow @carlyleletters for daily tweets from these prolific writers.