Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois


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Welcome to the Department of English blog.



My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at vmahaffe@illinois.edu.


Friday, September 28, 2012

New book, and other Feisal Mohamed related news!

Feisal Mohamed wrote to me earlier today to let me know that he had recently received his copies of the exceptionally lovely volume pictured to the left.  The book is called Milton and Questions of History: Essays by Canadians Past and Present (University of Toronto Press), and Mohamed co-edited it with the distinguished Miltonist Mary Nyquist. 

Here is the book description, pasted in from the UTP webpage:  "Milton and Questions of History considers the contribution of several classic studies of Milton written by Canadians in the twentieth century. It contemplates whether these might be termed a coherent ‘school’ of Milton studies in Canada and it explores how these concerns might intervene in current critical and scholarly debates on Milton and, more broadly, on historicist criticism in its relationship to renewed interest in literary form.

The volume opens with a selection of seminal articles by noted scholars including Northrop Frye, Hugh McCallum, Douglas Bush, Ernest Sirluck, and A.S.P. Woodhouse. Subsequent essays engage and contextualize these works while incorporating fresh intellectual concerns. The Introduction and Afterword frame the contents so that they constitute a dialogue between past and present critical studies of Milton by Canadian scholars."

This is an editorial project that Mohamed--who himself received his PhD from the University of Toronto--has been overseeing for some time.  I'm delighted to see that his work on this has come to fruition.  And Feisal points out to me that one of the reprinted essays included in the volume is by Arthur Barker, who is a former member of our department.  Perhaps there's also a tradition of Canadian Miltonists at UIUC?

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For those of you who are reading this from in or around campus, let me also point out that Mohamed will be presenting this year's IPRH Distinguished Lecturer in the Humanities next Wednesday, October 3, at 4:00 on the 3rd floor of the Levis Faculty Center. This should be a pretty bid deal--our new Provost Ilesanmi Adesida will participate, for instance--and so I'd encourage you to come on down.

The title of Mohamed's lecture is "Republican Political Theology in the Age of Hobbes," and I think it should be of interest to scholars in a very wide range of humanities subjects. Here is the abstract:

"In Carl Schmitt’s influential account of political theology, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) is a watershed text in the early modern secularization of theological principles.  This paper argues that the Roman provenance of Hobbes’ ideas qualifies their modernity, and that their foundation in determinist materialism strongly limits their theological underpinnings.  We shall look instead to key figures of England’s short-lived republic to find views of sovereignty with more substantive theological engagements.  From this distinctly English contribution to the republican tradition arises that quality of the modern political imaginary for which neither Hobbes nor Enlightenment thought can account: the sovereign’s embodiment of a locus of power sustained by the self-sacrifice of subjects."

If the volume on Canadian Milton scholarship represents Mohamed's scholarly heritage, so to speak, it looks to me as though this talk represents his present and future. His recent work has often made use of foundational 17th-century writers to illuminate aporias associated with religiosity and toleration within the tradition of liberal political thought.  Here, by recovering the political theology of Hobbes's contemporaries, and putting their theological investments in the context of early British republicanism (which is often associated with the origins of an Anglo-American liberal tradition), Mohamed promises to cast light on tensions and blind-spots within the essentially liberal political mentality that we have inherited.

I hope to see many of you there!

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