Elizabeth Hodgson

Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Humanist method and the prophetic office of English poetry in the works of Edmund Spenser and John Milton (2017)

Erasmus’s Renaissance humanist grammatical hermeneutics changed the way theology was conceived and practiced. The literary critical resources Erasmus brought to theology from the study of the classical poets, however, were not only powerful agents of change within Reformation theology. They were also retrieved for poetry by early modern authors. Key Erasmian concepts and perspectives relating to both bonae litterae and sacrae litterae as well as to secular pedagogy and rhetorical theology were assimilated by English culture and provided important foundational elements within the early modern prophetic poetics of Edmund Spenser and John Milton. Careful consideration of the manner in which these Erasmian concepts and perspectives were integrated into Spenser and Milton’s understandings of both poetry and the poetic vocation provides important insight into the complex theological dimensions of these poets’ work—particularly into the workings and significance of a number of Spenser and Milton’s most challenging religious figures and into the prophetic claims related to their mimetic production.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Milton impregnated : feminizng chaos in Paradise Lost (2018)

In the first invocation of Paradise Lost, God is depicted as impregnating Chaos with the seed of a world, suggesting an intricate connection between the creation of the cosmos and reproduction. Yet, despite the acknowledgement of many critics such as Neil Forsyth that “one of the most original ideas in Paradise Lost is Chaos” (77), there seems to be little scholarship that closely explores the relationship between Chaos, impregnation, and creation. If God is impregnating the abyss, the abyss must be feminized in some way. This thesis considers the ways Milton feminizes Chaos as a space and argues that Paradise Lost presents a complicated and often inconsistent attempt to appropriate the language of reproduction and the female body in order to gender Chaos and the multiverse. Focusing on the female womb, and the culturally generated traits such as leakiness and double-formedness associated with the female body, Milton depicts a deterritorialized, grotesque cosmos where the boundaries and distinctions between Heavenly and Hellish spaces and bodies are muddled and intertwined. Inside this grotesque multiverse, Chaos becomes a kind of feminine Goddess who gives birth to the universes alongside God and the various cosmic spaces and bodies take on a more mutable nature unbounded by the strict laws of the body. Yet Milton also seems to affirm some hierarchies between masculinity and femininity that are prevalent during his time by suggesting that the masculine aspects of his cosmos (i.e. God) are sometimes more significant than their feminine counterparts (i.e. Chaos). Furthermore, the epic also seems to accept some of the cultural characteristics that demonize the female body by presenting it as monstrous, feeble, and incorrigible in addition to acknowledging its subversive, generative and transformative nature. In the end, by delving into the seemingly inconsistent, conflicting ways in which the cosmic spaces of Paradise Lost are gendered as well as examining Milton’s complicated treatment of gendered bodies, this project illustrates that the very evidence of inconsistency and contradiction is the epic’s way to assert the spatially mutable and gender-fluid nature of the cosmos.

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Expecting a ring and finding a round : sequence and order in George Herbert's The Temple (2016)

This thesis is concerned with the sequential nature of George Herbert’s The Temple. By engaging with this volume of poetry as a cohesive unit with structures that extend beyond any one poem, it is shown that that although Herbert’s poetry is richly productive, it is also limited and self-undermining, expressing the ultimately contingent nature of human art. The structures examined are of two kinds, dealt with in turn: first, those that are typographical and emerge from the physical presentation of Herbert’s poems on the pages of the first edition of 1633, and second, formal structures modelled by particular poems in the collection, which provide insight and reflection into the functioning of the whole. In the first category are poems that share common titles (“Love” (I), “Love” (II), “Love” (III), for example) as well as the particular arrangements of poems such as “Hope” and “Sinnes Round” on the page, which suggest connections and relationships between these poems that are not apparent when viewed individually or in the abstract. The second kind of feature examined is found in a wide variety of Herbert’s poems, and is the tendency of these poems to model particular kinds of reading practice that are applicable to the reading of The Temple itself. Poems such as “Prayer” (I) and “The Sacrifice” exhibit modes of accumulation and revision that suggest how multiple poems may be combined to produce larger structures of meaning, while poems such as “The Flower” and “The Pulley” demonstrate how such structures are necessarily incomplete and flawed. Finally, a turn to the poems “Vertue” and “Love” (III) explores how Herbert’s poetry engages with questions of finitude and conclusion.

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