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Quests of Difference

Quests of Difference: Reading Pope's Poems

G. Douglas Atkins
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Quests of Difference
    Book Description:

    In this eminently readable book, G. Douglas Atkins continues the efforts undertaken inReading Deconstruction/Deconstructive Readingto open eighteenth-century texts to the insights of recent critical theory. Through close readings of most of Pope's major poems, Atkins demonstrates how the powerful theoretical movement known as deconstruction enriches, challenges, and significantly modifies our understanding of the work of the greatest poet of the eighteenth century. The first full-scale deconstructive study of Augustan poetry,Quests of Differenceat once offers a fresh and compelling reading of Pope and makes an important contribution to constructive criticism.

    Though it will be of particular interest and importance to specialists in both eighteenth-century studies and criticism and theory,Quests of Differenceis written with the general reader in mind. All readers will appreciate the intelligence and balance of Atkin's approach as well as the clarity, informality, and grace that distinguish his writing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6189-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Chapter One Double Reading Pope
    (pp. 1-15)

    Several years ago I wrote an essay on Pope and Deism that I hoped would be a prolegomenon to a study of the poet’s religious positions.¹ That discussion, in which I concluded that it is “highly improbable” that Pope ever was, like his good friend Bolingbroke, a Deist, received some attention, and the positive response encouraged me to go beyond saying what Pope was not to (I hoped) an eventual definitive statement concerning what he was, religiously. For years I dutifully tried to pinpoint what is peculiar to Christianity, Deism, and Catholicism; to sort out the Christian and the perhaps...

  5. Chapter Two Fair Art’s “Treach’rous Colours” The Fate of “Gen’rous Converse” in An Essay on Criticism
    (pp. 16-38)

    How better to begin a critical reading of Pope’s poems than by attending to what he writes about reading? Though he thematizes reading most prominently in the moral epistles and satires of the 1730S, Pope’s first major poem,An Essay on Criticism,already offers clear insight into a range of related issues. Here Pope treats not only reading but also language, the relation of language to thought, the relation of readers to texts, and much more. In discussing theEssay,I shall focus on this matter of relations, particularly the kinds of relation obtaining within the various differences that serve...

  6. Chapter Three “Some Strange Comfort” Construction and Deconstruction in An Essay on Man
    (pp. 39-65)

    Many of the concerns that structureAn Essay on Criticismcontinue inAn Essay on Man.Whereas the earlier poem reveals Pope’s commitment to certain distinctions and oppositions, his theodicy revolves around his commitment to the notion of the “proper.” This complex idea is itself related to Pope’s central argument inAn Essay on Manconcerning God’s impartiality, which runs counter to the human desire for and expectation of preferential—and differentiating—treatment. The work of difference in this later poem, in both Pope’s declarations and the textual description, is more complicated, in part because, inAn Essay on Man,...

  7. Chapter Four Shooting at Flying Game Reading and the Quest of Truth in the Moral Essays
    (pp. 66-98)

    I begin, no doubt unpromisingly, with my title. Whether it refers, like the title of this book, to Pope’s efforts in these poems, to my own attempt to read them, or to both is a question I will not (presume to) answer. My title here comes from theEpistle to Cobham,specifically from a passage concerned with the difficulty we experience in reaching decisions and making judgments. First Pope declares that “God and Nature only are the same”; then he proceeds to grant the difference from such unity and identity (“I am who I am”) that is man, in whom,...

  8. Chapter Five Becoming Woman Writing, Self, and the Quest of Difference in the Imitations of Horace
    (pp. 99-146)

    BesidesAn Essay on Manand theMoral Essays,Pope’s major poems of the 1730s are those we know by the rubricImitations of Horace.This title is convenient but misleading—if not perverse—for only eleven of the seventeen poems included are more or less directly imitative of the Roman poet; the remaining poems include the two “imitations” of Donne,An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,the two dialogues of theEpilogue to the Satires,and the fragment known asOne Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty.If reading is the major concern in theMoral Essays,writing is the central...

  9. Chapter Six “All Relation Scorn” Duncery, Deconstruction, and The Dunciad
    (pp. 147-168)

    The Dunciadis clearly Pope’s most complex poem, in part because it is more than poem, consisting of poetic text, elaborate notes, and seemingly endless prefatory and other matter. But as Wallace Jackson has recently claimed, “TheNew Dunciadincorporates little that has not been in Pope’s texts from the beginning.”¹ Focusing on such issues as parts-whole and inside/outside,The Dunciadreturns us to the concerns with which we began this study. As it reminds us ofAn Essay on Criticismas well asAn Essay on Man,Pope’s last and perhaps greatest poem also extends strategies developed inSober...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 169-184)
  11. Index
    (pp. 185-192)