SONIA FANUCCHI • Newman’s Callista: An Apologia for Ritual

A. EVERETT BEEK • Manto into Mantua: Dante’s Corrections of Vergil

LEILA HASSIM • Linguistic Strategies on the Edge of Heterodoxy: Liminal Encoding in Julian of Norwich and Marguerite Porete

CATHERINE ADDISON • The Female Knight in Renaissance Romance Epic: The Grace of the Tigress

MARIANNE DIRCKSEN • Martyrological Themes and the Revival of Catholic Identity in Robert Persons’ De Persecutione Anglicana



CATHERINE ADDISON is a professor of English at the University of Zululand. After completing a PhD on Byron at the University of British Columbia, she started her career as a specialist on Romantic poetry, but has diversified. Her literary interests now include Early Modern, Victorian, Modernist and Postmodernist literature; colonial and postcolonial writing; the prose novel; African women’s fiction; and formal aspects of literature such as versification, narrative, simile and irony. Recently she has focused much of her attention on the versenovel, culminating in the publication, in 2017, of her monograph A Genealogy of the Verse Novel.

A. EVERETT BEEK is a classical philologist, currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at North-West University, whose research focuses on depictions of the afterlife and supernatural episodes in Latin poetry. Her 2015 dissertation ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Death’ studies violence as a catalyst for apotheosis in Ovid’s Fasti, and she has several publications related to this subject. Beyond this, she has published on Elysium in Greek literature and gendering in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; she has also worked as an Italian translator. Her current principal project is a translation and commentary on Ovid’s Fasti for Aris and Philips’ Classical Texts.

MARIANNE DIRCKSEN is a former director of the School of Ancient Languages and Text Studies at the North West University in South Africa. Before her retirement in 2016 she taught Latin language and literature at university level for 40 years. The Histories and Annals of Tacitus were the subject of both her Master’s dissertation and D.Litt. et Phil. thesis. She has published mainly on Tacitus and Latin pedagogy. Since her retirement she has become involved in a project aimed at the translation and annotation of Latin documents dating from the late sixteenth century.

SONIA FANUCCHI is a lecturer in English at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her teaching is focused on Victorian and Medieval undergraduate and postgraduate modules. She obtained her PhD from the same university on the connections between antitheatricality and anti-Catholicism in Brontë, Newman and Dickens and is currently working this material into a book. She has recently published an article in Nineteenth Century Contexts, entitled ‘Devils, Kettles and Drama: Grip as mystical Clown in Barnaby Rudge’.

LEILA HASSIM teaches English literature at St Augustine College, medieval studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Academic Development and Research Skills at Varsity College, Johannesburg. Her research interests include women’s voices in literature (especially mystical literature), African literature and American literature. She obtained her PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2019.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
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    Linguistic Strategies on the Edge of Heterodoxy: Liminal Encoding in Julian of Norwich and Marguerite Porete
    (Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2019) Hassim, Leila
    This article explores commonalities between Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love and Marguerite Porete’s The Mirror of Simple Souls by examining how the language of the two texts is employed in their descriptions of apprehending divinity. The exploration investigates some of the verbal textures of the texts to see where and how Julian’s and Marguerite’s ideas complement each other with regard to apprehending divinity, how liminality seems to play a role in progress towards apprehending divinity, and how Revelations and The Mirror might be part of a wider dialogue that transcends time, space, culture and geography.
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    Newman's Callista: An Apologia for Ritual
    (Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2019) Fanucchi, Sonia
    Newman’s Callista (1855) has been difficult to place: scholars have tended simultaneously to dismiss it for what they perceive as its Gothic melodrama and to criticize its realist lack of sensationalism. I propose that the text has been misread, in part because of misleading assumptions about the nineteenth century historical novel. Rather than simply a religious polemic, I suggest that Callista can be read as an apologia for ritual, which is presented as an exploration of the spiritual reach of language itself and its power ritually to transform the historical moment. This involves the deliberate rewriting and dismantling of the ‘medieval’, Gothic caricatures so frequently associated with the anti-Catholic narratives of the time.
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    Martyrological Themes and the Revival of Catholic Identity in Robert Persons' De Persecutione Anglicana
    (Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2019) Dircksen, Marianne
    This article supplements a previous article, ‘Towards a Critical Edition and Modern Translation of Robert Persons’ De Persecutione Anglicana’ (published in vol. 28 of the journal) with a discussion of the significance of its treatment of martyrdom. Another major role player in publicizing the persecution of Catholics in England, Richard Verstegan, is introduced. He was the originator of a series of illustrations included in one of the early editions of Persons’ text, namely the one printed in Rome by Georgio Ferrari in 1582. The premise of my analysis of the text and the engraved plates is that their value is not limited to the (inside) information it provides about the fate of Catholic priests in England during the sixteenth century, but the particular features of the presentation of martyrdom. The aim is to identify these typical martyrological tropes that had originated during the earliest years of Christian persecution and to highlight the specific emphasis placed on Catholic practices and symbolism in the selected passages from the text as well as in the Verstegan illustrations. A close reading of the texts will reveal and unravel the clues that encourage a predetermined interpretation of the text.
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    Manto into Mantua: Dante's Corrections of Vergil
    (Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2019) Beek, A. Everett
    Manto in the Inferno is a locus classicus of authorial correction. As a prophetess and the eponym of Mantua, Dante’s Manto is drawn principally from Vergil’s Aeneid. Dante’s character Vergil, however, rewrites the Aeneid story by excising Manto from Mantua’s community. This transformation is prompted by Vergil’s complex reputation in medieval Europe. Throughout the middle ages, Vergil, like Manto, was associated with occult knowledge, which both advanced and hindered his role in the Commedia. Dante thus uses authorial correction to distance Vergil from Manto and her occult associations, and as a result, Dante’s Manto more closely resembles the Aeneid’s Circe: Dante’s Manto and Vergil’s Circe are both conceptualized as a looming threat that could destroy the hero’s endeavour.
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    The Female Knight in Renaissance Romance Epic: The Grace of the Tigress
    (Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2019) Addison, Catherine
    The female knights in the romance epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso and Spenser do not realistically reflect the lives and pursuits of women of their period, and yet they have been and remain attractive, popular literary figures. The gender roles of these female knights are complex, for they do not simply mirror the behaviour of the male knights of their texts. Instead, they project a type of womanhood that is possible rather than either realistic or fantastic. These Renaissance women warriors trace their literary genealogy to Greek and Latin forebears such as Virgil’s Camilla and Quintus’ Penthesilea and yet only a minority of the later figures suffer the tragic fate of Amazons in classical epic. This paper anatomizes the characters and narrative trajectories of Bradamante and Marfisa as they appear in both Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso, Clorinda and Gildippe in Gerusalemme liberata and Britomart and Radigund in The Faerie Queene. It also pays attention to other warlike women characters in these texts, such as Armida, Belphoebe, and the communities of Amazon-like women that feature in both Spenser and Ariosto. The two main questions guiding the exploration of these figures ask why the female knights are so attractive and what precise gender roles they perform in their texts and contexts.


To mark the canonization of St John Henry Newman on 13 October 2019, this issue begins with a study of his novel, Callista (1855), a martyrological narrative set in the third century. Although the work lies obliquely to medieval and Renaissance studies in the strictest sense, it speaks to the interpenetration of late antiquity with modernity in ways that seem entirely appropriate to the place of historicist studies in Southern Africa today.

Sonia Fanucchi's analysis of the nature of ritual, and ritualist language, in Newman's provocatively non-realist novel raises many questions about the evolution of martyrology. Marianne Dircksen, in the concluding article of the volume, addresses a related issue: how to translate polemical martyrology, composed in Latin by the Jesuit Robert Persons in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, into English in the aftermath of the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation: her piece could profitably be read in conjunction with Peter Titlestad's study, in volume 28, of Bunyan, Luther and Calvin.

Newman and Robert Persons both engaged in a conversation between Europe and England, the persecution of the early church and the condition of Catholics in Protestant England. Everett Beek scrutinizes another conversation: between Dante and Vergil – not the interchanges between the two figures in La Commedia itself, but the two poets' contrasting treatment of Manto, sorceress or founding luminary of Vergil's home city. Translation puzzles also enter into Catherine Addison's survey of women warriors in the epic romances of Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso and Spenser: Spenser's importation and repurposing of Italian-made hero[in]es, and the Englishing of these Italian poems. Occupying the middle ground between Dante and Spenser, Leila Hassim takes Marguerite Porete and Julian of Norwich, French beguine and English anchorite, and finds in their extraordinary works a common need to encode mystical experience on the threshold of the inarticulate. Readers of the journal will be reminded of Eugenie Freed's short story about Marguerite, 'Philadelphia', in volume 27.

I hope readers will find instruction and delight in the interplay of language, theme and experience in these five lively articles.