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Studies in Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and Donne
Deconstructionist critics have argued that literary works contain conflicting or contradictory meanings, thus creating an aporia, or impasse, that prevents readers from interpreting the work. Here, however, Murray Roston offers detailed and essentially new analyses of works by Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and Donne, arguing that the seemingly contradictory presence of traditional and subversive elements in their major works actually creates the source of much of their literary achievement. Chapters explore The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Faerie Queene, Volpone, and the Meditations of John Donne, highlighting the creative tension between centripetal and centrifugal factors (borrowing Bakhtin’s terms). As Roston demonstrates, this tension exists in a variety of genres, including poetry, epic and drama, and even in religious prose-which, he acknowledges, might be thought to be exempt from such inner conflict because of its doctrinal and theological focus. The tension between tradition and subversion, both linguistic and cultural, then, can be seen to produce not aporia in any negative sense, but a positive complexity of response from the audience, animating and profoundly enriching each work. In The Merchant of Venice, for example, Shakespeare merges the previously despised figure of the merchant with a Christ-like figure, brilliantly reasserting the Christian condemnation of profiteering while simultaneously advocating its seeming opposite, a validation of the burgeoning mercantile activity of the Renaissance. Tradition and Subversion in Renaissance Literature is a thoughtful study, rich in both historical scholarship and in its survey of modern criticism. Even those who are quite familiar with the texts discussed here will find Roston’s focus on the tension between maintaining the expectations of the culture and pulling toward new ideas an illuminating way to freshly consider these literary works.
Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur in Search of Time, Self, and Meaning
If there is a topic that sends chills up the spine of serious philosophers, scientists and poets alike, it is the topic of time. Simone Weil once wrote that time is the most tragic subject human beings can think about. Time is tragic on two counts. First, philosophically, we are unable to conceive of time in its totality. Second, our need to understand time beyond a mere speculation of its nature is driven by the undeniable reality of our mortal lives. It is the bane of human existence to see our lives as finite when contrasted to the age of stars and cosmic realities. This contrast fuels much of our existential angst to question our nature, understand ourselves and search for meaning.
Tricks of Time invites readers into the labyrinthine discussions of time, self and meaning under the auspices of three thinkers: Henri Bergson, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Ricoeur. Dubbed by Mark Muldoon “the masters of disruption,” the work of each philosopher is highlighted to show how each “disrupts” “clock time,” drawing out and reclaiming aspects of our humanity neglected in systems that treat time merely as chronology. Outside of Augustine perhaps, no other set of philosophers in any particular school or epoch has offered us such a diverse and unique series of attempts to respond to the question: “What is time?” While not working in tandem, or even necessarily following one another’s leads, but sharing the same French cultural and philosophical climate, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur aptly reveal how interrogating the present constantly intercepts any neat and efficient closure to defining the self and meaning.
Following the lead of Ricoeur’s central thesis, that time only becomes human to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, Muldoon identifies unquestionable hints of the link between time and narrative in both Bergson and Merleau-Ponty. While the struggle with language is evident in each of these thinkers, the importance they accord it is striking. Each of their contributions is novel and unique, leading us to take Ricoeur’s claim seriously—namely, that time cannot, ultimately, be thought, it can only be lived and our lives recounted.
Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Derrida on Disclosure and Displacement
Throughout the history of philosophy, the truth of language has often been considered from the perspective of the distinction between language that serves the transparency and univocality to which philosophy strives and language that threatens this goal. Linguistic phenomena such as writing, metaphor, and poetic mimesis are often considered examples of the latter form, and as a result, treacherous to truth; they would exemplify the “seduction of language,” as Husserl beautifully called it. Against this background, it is remarkable that contemporary hermeneutics often inquires into the relation between truth and language by taking these seductive forms of language as a point of departure. Contemporary hermeneutics does so in order to provide a new understanding of truth and untruth in relation to language.
In this study, Gert-Jan van der Heiden shows that this hermeneutic understanding of the relation between truth, untruth, and language can be clarified by inquiring into the meaning of two notions: disclosure and displacement. Unconcealment and hiding, truth and untruth, disclosure and displacement are the key notions to understanding the various conceptions of language in contemporary approaches to hermeneutics in continental philosophy. By painting a picture of the different meanings of these concepts in the work of Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Derrida, illuminating the differences and affinities of their respective projects, he finds an original way of showing how these three thinkers mutually discuss the relation between truth and language.
The Truth (and Untruth) of Language also confirms Heidegger’s continued influence in contemporary debates by tracing the influence of his account of the disclosure and displacement of language in the reigning schools of hermeneutical thought in continental philosophy. As a result, he offers a clear account of the comparison between hermeneutics and deconstruction by elucidating Ricoeur and Derrida’s shared resource of Heidegger’s project.
“Van der Heiden clearly locates the problem of language around its double ability to disclose the essence of things and displace the essence of things. No one has penetrated the Heidegger hinge between Ricoeur and Derrida as much as van der Heiden has.” — Leonard Lawlor, Edwin Erie Sparks Professor of Philosophy, Penn State University
Volume 3 [Samson Agonistes]
Over a span of three centuries, scholarly work dedicated to Milton’s Samson Agonistes has gradually evolved, reflecting changing critical interpretations within historical contexts. This variorum edition of the poem, the first since 1809, gathers together all significant contributions to understanding Milton’s dramatic poem that were published between 1671 and 1970.
This Variorum Commentary is an indispensable reference tool and opens up fresh lines of inquiry. Simply the most comprehensive, detailed, and expansive exploration of Samson Agonistes' critical history, this book is an essential tool for anyone interested in Milton and one of his greatest poetic works.
Volume 5, Part 4 [Paradise Lost, Book 4]
This variorum edition of the poem, the first part to appear on Paradise Lost, presents a comprehensive and detailed narrative survey of the critical responses to Paradise Lost, book 4, from 1695 through 1970. From notes on individual words or phrases to lengthy essays on the characters, setting, action, and themes of book 4, the variorum reveals the ever-changing and enduring topics of scholarly concern to readers of this book of Paradise Lost for nearly 300 years.
This indispensable reference tool efficiently, conveniently, and succinctly presents the most important commentary of Milton’s earliest editors and critics. It demonstrates the historical development of Milton scholarship as Fresch’s narrative overview relates that recovered critical material to the twentieth century criticism on Paradise Lost, book 4. It traces the rise and fall, and sometimes the endurance, of a variety of approaches to Milton’s text—from source studies to reader-response criticism. Gathering, organizing, and clarifying the criticism from 1695 through 1970, this volume establishes a point of departure, a stepping-off place for future critical inquiries. This critical variorum insists that while much is known, much still remains to be known about the fourth book of Paradise Lost.
Volume 5, Part 8 (<i>Paradise Lost,</i> Books 11–12)
This volume surveys all important and influential line-by-line commentary published between 1667 and 1970 on the impressive conclusion to Paradise Lost in books 11–12. In these last two books, Milton has taken the account of biblical history known to all his contemporaries and rendered it fresh by having the archangel Michael relate it to Adam in ways only partly suggested by the original text. In a series of visions in book 11, Michael shows Adam the results of his disobedience, and by a narration in book 12 the promise and revelation of “the greater Man” promised at the epic’s beginning (1.5). Adam and Eve move from repentant sorrow to invigorated hope, with the world before them and guided by Providence. The biblical influences on these last two books would have been instantly recognizable to Milton’s original audience, but the helpful notes in this volume identify biblical references and other theological matters for modern audiences. Similarly, Milton’s classical references to Homer, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and others are located and explained, along with Milton’s use of patristic, medieval, and early modern authors as well as later authors’ use of Milton. This volume will challenge the longstanding idea that the last two books of Paradise Lost are in any way inferior to the rest of the epic or unrelated to it. Besides the helpful introduction that traces the arguments over the value of the last books, the commentary to books 11 and 12 also demonstrates how many important and influential arguments about the epic are tied into these books. Successfully synthesizing a huge mass of Milton scholarship, Lares presents complex ideas clearly and succinctly.
Essays on Prophecy and Violence
With global terrorism a seemingly daily threat, the twenty-first century is permeated with violence and in search of some way to better understand the world and its different religions and politics. In recent decades, the literary world has shifted to a similar focus, producing new works and reexamining old ones to aid in forming a vision relevant to such a violent world. In Visionary Milton: Essays on Prophecy and Violence, distinguished Milton scholars are brought together in dialogue to discuss John Milton’s focus on prophecy and violence in his work and how these themes add to an understanding of Milton as a visionary.
The collection begins with a fresh analysis of the visionary mode of narrative in the early modern period as seen in both biblical and imaginative literature and sets the groundwork for an examination of Milton’s poetry, prose, and biography. The themes of prophecy and violence develop throughout these essays as an overall context in Milton’s life, as an important principle in such works as Paradise Regained, and as a mode for an extended analysis of Restoration politics as they figure in Milton’s poetry.
Visionary Milton extends the literary discussion of Milton’s work into a larger geopolitical area. The collection is important not only for those interested in Milton, but also for historians, political scientists, and theologians.
In this short, illuminating and very readable work, Philippe Nemo argues that what we call “the West” is one and only one cultural entity, to which both North America and Western Europe belong. In contemporary debates, then, Nemo asserts, it is simply incorrect to exaggerate the differences or gaps between countries that are indeed “Western.” Brilliantly and succinctly surveying the last five or six millenia, Nemo pieces together the history of the West’s development. He weaves together political events, philosophical discoveries, religious movements, and scientific and technological innovations to demonstrate the factors that have influenced and shaped Western culture. Nemo acknowledges the essential contributions of Greek science and philosophy, Roman law, Christian thought, and modern democratic revolutions to our contemporary liberal democracies. In his conclusion, Nemo presents a case for closer geopolitical cooperation among Western societies. Already translated from the original French into Portuguese, Italian, German and Greek, What is the West? has received considerable interest throughout Europe; earlier this year, in fact, it received the Italian Citte della Rose prize for essays. Now available for the first time in English, this book is essential reading for those interested in contemporary cultural debates on Western culture, nationhood and American values, as well as those interested in world history and politics, philosophy and religion, and contemporary global politics. Not geared to specifically conservative or liberal viewpoints but to an accurate rendering of historical ideas and trends, Nemo’s book should do much to advance our understanding of each other in an increasingly global community.
Rhetoric and the Poetry of Pembroke, Wroth, and Lanyer
Rhetorically analyzing their verse within a gender-inclusive context, Women Writing of Divinest Things broadens our understanding of Renaissance women’s poetry in literary history. Scholars have long recognized that the culture of early modern England was deeply informed by rhetorical habits of speech and thought, yet until now there has been no full-length study of the role rhetoric played in poetry by women of the period. Women Writing of Divinest Things addresses this gap.
A Sylvan Pastoral Nation
In Writing the Forest in Early Modern England: A Sylvan Pastoral Nation, Jeffrey S. Theis focuses on pastoral literature in early modern England as an emerging form of nature writing. In particular, Theis analyzes what happens when pastoral writing is set in forests — what he terms “sylvan pastoral.”
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, forests and woodlands played an instrumental role in the formation of individual and national identities in England. Although environmentalism as we know it did not yet exist, persistent fears of timber shortages led to a larger anxiety about the status of forests. Perhaps more important, forests were dynamic and contested sites of largely undeveloped spaces where the poor would migrate in a time of rising population when land became scarce. And in addition to being a place where the poor would go, the forest also was a playground for monarchs and aristocrats where they indulged in the symbolically rich sport of hunting. Conventional pastoral literature, then, transforms when writers use it to represent and define forests and the multiple ways in which English society saw these places. In exploring these themes, authors expose national concerns regarding deforestation and forest law and present views relating to land ownership, nationhood, and the individual’s relationship to nature. Of particular interest are the ways in which cultures turn confusing spaces into known places and how this process is shaped by nature, history, gender, and class.
Theis examines the playing out of these issues in familiar works by Shakespeare, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and As You Like It, Andrew Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House,” John Milton’s Mask and Paradise Lost, as well as in lesser known prose works of the English Revolution, such as James Howell’s Dendrologia>/i> and John Evelyn’s Sylva. As a unique ecocritical study of forests in early modern English literature, Writing the Forest makes an important contribution to the growing field of the history of environmentalism, and will be of interest to those working in literary and cultural history as well as philosophers concerned with nature and space theory.