Marvell Studies and Newsletter items categorised as review
Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane is a fascinating book. It is also a peculiar one. Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker acknowledge in their very first sentence that “it is polemical and speculative and may not satisfy all readers, but we hope that it provides new ways of thinking about Marvell’s relations to his writings and new readings of his texts” (1). Their book is neither a literary biography nor a work of literary history, although it has recognizable elements of both of these forms. It is in effect a psychobiography. In a surprising turn of events, Hirst and Zwicker, long-established and highly respected historical and literary scholars of the seventeenth century, have become Freudians, and they apply the language and assumptions of psychoanalysis (though that term is never used, and Freud is never once cited) with impressive tenacity to the life and works of Marvell.
Has any poet lived or written more between the lines than Andrew Marvell? Accused of fighting “backward and forward” in an insulting attack by Edmund Hickeringill that also counts as one of the earliest and most astute critical measures of his style, the protean Marvell and his works have recently been fixed as objects of critical scrutiny by a series of essential books that include Nigel Smith’s Longman edition and biography, Nicholas von Maltzahn’s chronology, and the Yale Prose Works edited by Annabel Patterson and others. This body of work informs Joan Faust’s project in Andrew Marvell’s Liminal Lyrics, but she also departs from it; her primary inquiry is aesthetic rather than historicist and it is premised on the suggestive notion that Proteus, counter to legend, speaks his most profound truths when unbound.
In a review of Joan Faust’s Andrew Marvell’s Liminal Lyrics: The Space Between published in these pages, Blaine Greteman cautiously praises Faust’s departure from the “impeccable and familiar historical method” which has characterized much of the best recent work on Marvell. Another volume reviewed in this issue, Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker’s Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane, might be praised in the same vein; while grounded in a searching historicism, their study takes high-wire risks in going beyond the safe precincts of historical method to reconstruct Marvell’s “imagined life” from the fragmentary glimpses of a self revealed in Marvell’s poetry. Takashi Yoshinaka’s valuable contextualist account of the poet, Marvell’s Ambivalence: Religion and the Politics of Imagination in Mid-Seventeenth-Century England, by contrast, resolutely stands or falls on its adherence to an “impeccable and familiar” historical approach.
This volume enhances in every possible way a reader’s understand of Herbert’s poem in memory of his mother. The translation are lucid, inventive, and idiomatic, while at the same time they are remarkably attentive to the formal structures and the rhetoric of Herbert’s Latin and Greek verse. The painstaking commentary offers detailed help to those needing assistance with classical languages and verse, and continually illuminates matters format and aesthetic.
The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell is a collection of eleven original essays by major Marvell scholars. The essays cover the range of modern scholarly approaches, and the book is most suitable for scholars, teachers, and graduate students who want to bring their awareness of Marvell studies up to date.