Alumni Profile: Dr. Jude Nixon

Dr. Jude V. Nixon has enjoyed more than 35 years as a college professor and administrator. His teaching and research interests include Victorian literature and culture and Caribbean literature. Dr. Nixon holds a PhD in 18th-20th century British Literature, and he has taught at universities (small, regional, comprehensive, doctoral, research, private, and public) in Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts, where he currently teaches and resides. Read about his newest work on The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins: Editing G. M. Hopkins. 

Dr. Jude Nixon

At the Hopkins International Conference at Oriel College, Oxford, in 2004, Oxford University Press charged six Hopkins scholars with undertaking the challenging task of bringing out a new Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins in 8 volumes to replace the five-volume extant edition. It has been over fifty years since the five-volume edition of Hopkins’s non-poetic texts was published: The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges; The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon; Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins including his Correspondence with Coventry Patmore (edited by Claude Abbott), Journals and Papers (edited by Humphry House); Sermons and Devotional Writing (edited by Christopher Devlin). The poetry has been republished in various forms and in edited collections. Although the edition served specialists and Victorian scholars adequately, it has long been out of print, is outdated editorially and annotatively, lacks primary materials recovered in the last four decades, and do not benefit from the last five decades of wide-ranging original scholarship on Hopkins. In addition to Higgins and Suarez, the team includes Cathy Phillips, Kelsey Thornton, Philip Endean (replaced by Noel Barber), and Jude V. Nixon.

The Collected Works will correct textual errors, restore censored materials, add a substantial amount of important primary texts, include a biographical register of notable figures, and provide new introductions, chronologies, and annotations that set Hopkins’s varied writings within their nineteenth-century literary and cultural contexts. These volumes will not only change Hopkins studies for the next generation, but will also help scholars to revise substantially our knowledge of Victorian poetry, art theory, education history, social studies, and cross-disciplinary studies.

This new edition, appearing when Hopkins’s position in the literary canon has become secure, presents his religious prose differently and free from the scrutiny of Jesuit censors: as raw material expressive of personal struggle. Sermons includes materials that have not been seen since Hopkins’s death, particularly notes from scriptural lectures he attended as an Oxford undergraduate; vows made in the Society of Jesus; and private meditations written during his Dublin years. Expanded historical and theological commentary are provided throughout the volume. This new treatment is mediated through new annotations to the sermons and spiritual writings, new chronologies that show the complexities of Hopkins’s ministry, and new introductions that set the spiritual writings within a Catholic, Jesuitical, and parochial context. The general introduction to Hopkins’s religious prose attempts four things: it outlines the tensions between Hopkins’s vision and the theology in which he had been trained, clarifies the relationship between Hopkins’s originality and wider Christian tradition, notably Duns Scotus and Ignatius Loyola, draws attention to the differences between the historical cultures of Victorian Catholicism and the early 21st century, in the hope of encouraging a more precise understanding of Hopkins’s creativity, and explores the interplay between Hopkins’s faith and readers who, if they believe in Christianity at all, necessarily believe in it differently from him. As well, the volume sets everything within the larger Victorian context in which they are embedded. What has come as a surprise to us is how tied Hopkins’s sermons are to the current issues of the day locally and geo-politically

Sermons and Spiritual Writings will be essential for understanding Hopkins the priest-poet, for investigating the impact of his Jesuit identity and training on his habits of mind, and for determining the relationship between his pastoral practices and private devotions. There has been in place a standard, almost orthodox, way of reading Hopkins’s ministry founded on partial and piecemeal historical evidence, which has been followed lockstep by critics and biographers. That evidence, slight though it is, has often been deployed to support that theory of reading. What we are offering here are not so much new ways to counter that tradition of reading, to radically alter it, as to problematize that reading by providing hitherto unknown historiographic, biographical, and cultural aspects of Hopkins’s priestly ministry. The tradition of reading has presented Hopkins largely on the sidelines of his parish ministry, as a spectator ill adapted and poorly equipped for ministry. Our evidence reveals the contrary, showing him as a priest who was part of a team digging in and doing the work of parish ministry. That work, when considered fully, was strikingly successful. Perhaps not so successful might be Hopkins’s at times relatively discrete roles if judged only by his sermons. But what we don’t have is the ability to compare them with those of his fellow-Jesuits and the presumably successful ones, which are not extant. Finally, Hopkins’s theology shapes his poems in ways not sufficiently recognized.

We anticipate completion of The Collected Works in 2020, with the release of The Poems. Reviews of the volumes thus far have been favourable. Helen Vendler, for example, reviewing the Correspondence in the Times Review of Books (London), writes: “A marked narrative of intellectual and personal engagement arises as one letter follows another, and as the correspondences with poets come and go like eddies in the flow of mail.” Another critic, reviewing The Dublin Notebook, applauds the work of the editors: “Profs. Higgins and Suarez, both experienced editors, have completed this major editorial project with great distinction: they have provided a generous fifty-six page introduction, full editorial notes, 117 pages of facsimiles and transcriptions, explanatory and textual notes, the nine appendices, a biographical register of the names Hopkins most frequently cites, and a comprehensive bibliography.” It will be intriguing to observe public reception of the volumes and estimation of their scholarly value.

Finally, The Collected Works will make the leap from bound books to e-books as part of Oxford Scholarly Editions On-Line (OSEO— The project has been developing its lists chronologically; the first 19th-century rollout began in spring 2016. The Collected Works volumes published thus far will be part of the next tranche, and the remaining volumes will be added as they become available.

-Dr. Jude Nixon