The following essay discusses the republican issues that are at stake in Shakespeare’s history play Julius Caesar (1599) about the disruption of the Roman Republic. It argues that the play reflects the split in early modern republican thought between on the one hand a humanist (Aristotelian and Ciceronian) tradition of republican thought and on the other hand Machiavelli’s controversial ideas about republican virtú. This conflict is most vividly represented in the contrasts between Brutus and Antony. The last part of the essay concerns the question of political representation and suggests a republican interpretation of the embarrassing and much debated role played by the plebians in Julius Caesar.
In 2005 a long-forgotten 18th century tragedy suddenly became a hot spot in today’s perhaps most dominating «clash of civilizations»; the conflict between Islam and the West. The essay presents the recent years’ reception of Voltaire’s tragedy Le fanatisme ou Mahomet le prophète (1742) in the light of the response it gained in the 18th century. While mid-18th century readers either considered the tragedy an amusing Oriental tale or a harsh attack on Christianity, the text and its author have become weapons more than 250 years later in the political debate taking place in the wake of the Muhammad cartoon controversy. Shedding light on some of the historical discourses and events that have preconditioned this reception, I discuss how prejudiced readers have politicized Le fanatisme ou Mahomet le prophète and how, eventually, this reception reveals the importance of the critical reader.
In this article, we explore how quality assessment takes place in practice. Based on in-depth interviews with editors working with contemporary literature in major Norwegian publishing houses, we show how judgment may be understood in terms of a craft. We argue that as craftsmen (Sennett, 2008) these editors work with three reading strategies. Firstly, reading for a standard establishing criteria that bind and hold a material together, secondly, reading cautiously for metaphors directed towards articulating the (non-verbal, tacit) experience and thirdly, reading with a belief that is hesitant, uncertain and exploring. Thus we formulate an understanding of literary quality which both recognizes the subjective as a non-random requisite and the need for an objective basis – an understanding of how judgment and assessment is practiced.