Academic Roundup: 2020-2021

The following articles and reviews have appeared in academic journals for the period 2020-21 (2019 in one case) and have not been previously posted. The summaries of articles come (except as noted) from an academic library search service and those of reviews are quoted from text:

–Lara Ehrenfried, “‘There’s a Song There, Really’: Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, the Musical Revue, and Early Sound Film”, Modern fiction studies, 2020-10-01, Vol.66 (3), p.423

This essay examines the relationship between Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, the musical revue, and early sound film in Britain. By attending to the soundscapes of Waugh’s novel and connecting them with the history of revue, early sound film productions of revue shows, and contemporary reviews of the novel as a “revue between covers,” this analysis demonstrates the text’s critical interaction with both emerging sound film and stage entertainment of its time. The essay argues that Vile Bodies is Waugh’s attempt to assert the place of the novel in a rapidly expanding media system.

–Matt Phillips, “First Miles Philips, and Then Tony Last: The Noble Savage Myth in Hakluyt and in Waugh’s A Handful of Dust”, The Comparatist, 2021-10-01, Vol.45 (1), p.287-299

Opening paragraph: In his 1582 “A discourse written by one Miles Philips Englishman, put on shore in the West Indies by Mr John Hawkins,” Miles Philips delivers a tale of shipwreck and captivity that ends with his heroic return to England. In 1934, Evelyn Waugh publishes the novel A Handful of Dust, another narrative of captivity, though one that leaves the reader with the tacit knowledge that protagonist Tony Last will live out the rest of his days imprisoned, reading Charles Dickens to his illiterate captor, Mr. Todd. Although separated by nearly four centuries, what links these two narratives is how each intersects with the myth of the noble savage. Both Philips and Last find themselves in the role of the subjugated, finding themselves in a position to empathize with native peoples historically thought of by some as savages. Along with this subjugation comes the potential to experience the type of conversion expected of the legendary noble savage. Philips, the former invader and slave trader, undergoes what we might call a mock-conversion during his captivity. His attitude about the natives is reformed, as he develops a “great familiarity with many of them, whom [he] found to be a courteous and loving kind of people …” (Hakluyt 150). Such a change, I argue, ultimately leads to Philips’s deliverance. Last does not undergo such liberation. Waugh’s own religious conversion alongside his complex affinity with the writings of Dickens alter his view of the noble savage myth. Waugh biographer David Wykes writes that Last “is an alter ego of the naïve Evelyn Waugh in the blindness of irreligion” (106). On September 29, 1930, Waugh joined the Catholic Church, four years prior to the publication of A Handful of Dust (Wykes 74). If Last were successful in his discovery of the imagined lost city in the novel, he would perpetuate those very humanist ideals, alongside the type of unchecked conquest—the “glory” of Hetton—that Waugh satirizes (Waugh 308). By comparing Philips’s and Waugh’s distinctive viewpoints regarding the myth of the noble savage, I will show how Waugh—in the shadow of Dickens—ultimately rejects the redemptive power that Philips experiences.

–Peter J Comerford, “Redeeming the Times: Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour as Sacramental Epic”, Christianity & literature, 2021, Vol.70 (1), p.28-51

Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy is a sacramental epic that derives its theology from the thinkers of the ressourcement, the theologians seeking a renewal of Catholic thinking by rediscovering the works of the early church fathers. Waugh shows grace operating both through the seven sacraments as well as the sacramentality of creation. He portrays a notion of specific vocation, whereby every person has a unique role to play in God’s plan. He uses the narrative device of eucatastrophe, which depicts that within God’s plan, good can come out of evil.

–Amanda K Greene, “The Passing Hour: 1930s Real-Time, Vile Bodies, and the Ethics of Reading”, Configurations (Baltimore, Md.), 2021, Vol.29 (2), p.119-154

Understanding real-time as an orientation toward the present and its documentation as opposed to a concrete (digitally determined) technological affordance, this article locates real-time in the burgeoning photographic tabloid culture of 1930s Britain. It traces how technical innovations in information transmission and circulation during the interwar years impacted the circuits between readers and their “real life” environment. Moreover, by engaging with Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930), a text strung between novel and tabloid supplement, it suggests how real-time’s newly habituated, melancholic modes of reading might push individuals to stand by in the face of individual pain and mass violence.

–Jonathan Greenberg, “A Double-Edged Sword”, Papers on language & literature, 2020-04-01, Vol.56 (2), pagination unavailable.

Greenberg reviews Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Contexts by Naomi Milthorpe. [This is concluding paragraph: “Synthesizing established views while also revising or overturning them is a challenging task, especially in a concise volume such as this. In the end, the Waugh who emerges is as elusive as ever, and that is probably as it should be. In some chapters–such as the readings of Decline and Fall and Love Among the Ruins–he appears as a cultural reactionary, valuing tradition, religion, and restraint rather than the chaos and energy embodied by figures like Decline and Fall ‘s Grimes. In others, such as the reading of Put Out More Flags, the pervasive understanding of Waugh as a conservative is successfully challenged. And of course however dour Waugh’s pessimism, it cannot erase the glee he takes in skewering modernity and inflicting bitter fates on his hapless and helpless characters. Ultimately, we probably have to concede that Waugh is neither one thing nor the other. To be sure, his reputation hardened over time into that of a curmudgeon, and at times he appears merely “a grumpy middle-aged man in a bad mood with Attlee” (138). But, as Milthorpe contends in Chapter 7, on The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, Waugh always maintained a “self-conscious and self-mocking awareness” (147) of his own public image and never shied from numbering himself among the targets of his satire. She thus makes a welcome break from reading the novel autobiographically, viewing Pinfold as a kind of self-parody and self-disguise. Waugh here, as elsewhere, remains one step ahead of his critics.]

–Anna Faktorovich, “Over Quoting, Contradiction and other Amoralities in Waugh Scholarship”, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, 2019-07-10, v 11(2), pp. 112-114.


[Review of Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Contexts by Naomi Milthorpe.] Since there have been many other studies on Waugh, the summary then promises that this book “renews scholarly debates central to Waugh’s work: the forms of his satire, his attitudes towards modernity and modernism, his place in the literary culture of the interwar period, and his pugnacious (mis)reading of literary and other texts. While Waugh denied he was a satirist and has a different moral tone to his critiques, in part because unlike most satirists he uses third person narrators, Milthorpe argues that he retains a subversive satiric style under a veil of disregard: “readers are meant to see these” moral “standards lurking behind the arras, and Waugh’s verbal strategy enables an implicit criticism of that narrative world, in which civility might retain some vestigial power, but brutality is allowed to proceed unchecked by authority” (2-5). Readers who come to this book without this type of knowledge might be turned away from studying satires due to all these confusing critical contradictions. […]those new to Waugh or to satire, should not read this book.



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