Archive for December, 2021

New Scholarship on Beddoes in 2021

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Two books published in 2021, The Rail, the Body and the Pen: Essays on Travel, Medicine and Technology in 19th Century British Literature, edited by Brian Cowlishaw, and The Poetics of Palliation: Romantic Literary Therapy, 1790-1850, by Brittany Pladek, include new scholarship on Thomas Lovell Beddoes.  In “‘Stiff Limbed’ and ‘Doubly Souled’: The Queer Anatomy of Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s Death’s Jest-Book,” part of the Cowlishaw book, Shelley Rees argues that two of the male characters, Melveric and Wolfram, in Beddoes’s play are sexually attracted to each other.  She writes that the competition between Melveric and Wolfram for Sibylla “forms a ‘conduit’… that allows them to mediate their attraction for each other in a heterosexual, and thus socially viable context” and “Melveric fulfills his desire for Wolfram by killing him.”  In “Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s ‘Fictitious Condition,’’’ one of the chapters in The Poetics of Palliation, Pladek investigates Death’s Jest-Book in terms of the narrative control of death.  She writes, “The play’s tragicomic main plot skewers the efforts of its leads to die in the heroic or romantic ways they feel will affirm their identities,” with Mandrake’s subplot forming a significant alternative.  “Where Athulf and the play’s other would-be heroes illustrate fears of losing control, Mandrake models an acceptance of relative agency that became increasingly common in the nineteenth century as medicine consolidated its control over palliative care.”  The Rail, the Body and the Pen is available from McFarland and Co. and The Poetics of Palliation is available from Liverpool University Press.