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Reviews173 ideas. In "Dante's Sexual Solecisms: Gender and Genre in the Commedia,"Jeffrey T. Schnapp makes much of "gender substitutions" (p. 211) in the works of Dante and the fact that in the Vita Nuova, Beatrice is referred to by deus [god] rather than dea [goddess]. Although he links this fact to androgyny and "the feminization of the holy" (p. 208), he never refers to traditional Dante scholarship that notes Dante's use of deus—Mark Musa's Essay on tL· Vita Nuova, for example. Instead, he refers to a contemporary secondary source, Caroline Walker Bynum's scholarship on the late-medieval devotion of God as Mother. Nichols says that New Medievalism "denotes a revisionist movement in Romance medieval studies" (p. 1). The movement is, however, revisionist in following cultural and critical studies, which borrow terminology from the social sciences to interpret literary texts: but it makes no particular contribution to humanistic knowledge. However, those who view the Middle Ages as "a slippery and dangerous world of motion" (Nichols, p. 23) will find much in these essays that validates such a view. University of DenverAlexandra Hennessey Olsen Cultural Aesthetics: Renaissance Literature and the Practice of Social Ornament, by Patricia Fumerton; xii & 279 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, $34.00. Patricia Fumerton's search for the Renaissance self involves a meticulous process of combing through Elizabethan and Jacobean aristocracy's "decorations , gifts, foodstuffs, small entertainments, and other particles of cultural wealth and show" (p. 1). A detailed and profound reconstruction of English Renaissance selfhood relates to both the idea of subjectivity and detachment, and to the idea of an existent fracture between a public self and a private self. The depth of the task precludes a transformation of the trivial, the peripheral artifact, into a broken, detached, fragmentary center. Like an ornament, the private selfis incarcerated by peers and, like a locket, it must hang tightly closed, but exposed. And it is through this public display that the individual strives for private identity. Through the lavishly trivial, the peripheral, and the ornamental components of Renaissance subjectivity, postmodernity can glimpse a paradigmatic representation ofhistory. It is through a scrupulous examination of the artifacts held precious by Renaissance individuals that one comprehends the relationship between the historical and the purely aesthetical. Indeed, it is the shattered aspect of the historical fact that triggers a reconstruction of an 174Philosophy and Literature aesthetical self viewed "as collective (chapter 2), as secret (chapter 3), as void (chapter 4), and as foreign or strange (chapter 5)" (p. 3). Fumerton defends the new historicist tendency towards the paradigm, asserting that continuity, as opposed to fragmentariness, does not transmit history as it was lived by the individuals under scrutiny. Charles I is the epitome of the truncation of history, in that his death represents the break with a previous history. Like Osiris, Charles is dismembered and then put back together, but in separate selves, through a mosaic of hair and bloody remains. Each of the pieces of Charles's previous self thus represents an entire story to his subjects. The striking custom of child-exchange among aristocrats points to the expendability of offspring, and to their peripheral, almost ephemeral position in society. Elizabethan aristocrats soothe parental death wounds through receiving another chüd, in an endless exchange circle. Spenser's Faerie Queene offers "a circle of gift, an endlessly transformational round wherein all loss is gain, all giving taking, all dying living" (p. 58). Elizabeth's ornamentary miniatures serve as conspicuous testimony to the struggle between the private selfand the public self. In fact, ornaments are ^//-explanatory in that they transmit a desire to keep the private self secret, "locked away (in full view) in one corner of the house" (p. 69). Like an onion peeling eternally, Elizabetii opens one chamber door after another, in pursuit of further privacy, finding a retreat in the peripheral , the ornamentary, the miniature. It is at this point that the trivial metamorphoses into the profound, since the Queen can only experience privacy in public, and, yet, can choose to share this process with a select few. Hilliard and Sidney contribute to the representation of the subjective selfof the English Renaissance court...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 173-174
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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