Recent Studies in the English Renaissance
An assessment of recent scholarly work treating the literature of the English Renaissance and some general observations on the state of the profession. A full bibliography and price list of works received by SEL for consideration follow.
As I delved into the proliferating books received from SEL for this review, I found myself recalling the pyramid of axioms from my early Catholic-school education: knowledge is good, attentiveness is better, humility is best. The impressive range of the past year's work in early modern studies—excluding for the most part scholarship on dramatic literature—prompted sobering reminders of the challenge built into the omnibus review's dual mission to give an overview of recent scholarship and indicate areas of greatest interest, with attention to methodological and topical trends. Facing this challenge, I wished for a slightly different template, something closer to the format the New York Times uses for its annual roundtable reflections on the year's notable music recordings—a convocation of voices giving a flavorful sample of the range of critical judgments on offer. What I admire about the NYT format is that it appreciates how humility is best thought of as the outcome of collective engagement rather than a solitary regimen.
The format I yearned for came not to matter so much with the bracing reminder afforded by the year's yield that the task at hand was not to dispense a scaled hierarchy of achievement in absolute time and space, but instead to issue snapshots reflecting [End Page 219] the resilient insight voiced by Lynn Hunt in an important essay published nearly thirty years ago. In "History as Gesture; or, The Scandal of History," Hunt describes the construction of history as "an ongoing tension between stories that have been told and stories that might be told" and suggests that this constitutive feature of historical inquiry makes it "more useful to think of history as an ethical and political practice than as an epistemology with a clear ontological status."1 The year's bounty of scholarship offers ample opportunities to think of each work's gestural qualities—its specific way of amplifying a received topic or opening up a fresh perspective or advancing a cross-disciplinary conversation—and to fashion groupings of works according to their gestural affinities. For the most part, I have retained the subfield categories familiar to readers of this journal, with the proviso that many of this year's publications could have plausibly fallen under two or three categories, depending on what seemed to be their prominent gestural orientation.
No single category takes pride of place. That said, while the brute facts of the publication process militate against inferring a decodable correspondence between the bravura profile of some of the groupings and the full-bore crisis of the Trump era in contemporary politics and social life, I share with my predecessor in these pages, Katherine Eggert, the intuition that the current ferment of humanities scholarship gives evidence of the discipline's being more than merely reactive to matters of contemporary concern. It is too tempting to ignore the extraordinary acuity and proactive energies of books appearing this year that represent the "Literature, Law, and Politics," "Women, Gender, and Sexuality," and "Ecology Studies and Posthuman Materialisms" rubrics. Even if by happenstance, the constellation attests to the resilient vitality of humanities scholarship and education in dislocating times, despite the fact that the question of who is paying attention outside the academy remains the cliffhanger.
WOMEN, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY
Last year's English Renaissance review noted the "relative paucity" of books on women, gender, and sexuality—at least outside of drama studies (p. 190). This year confirms the ongoing abundance of innovative scholarship in these interrelated fields, with a handful of publications that will likely become touchstone references (I mention these in due course). I have arranged the books according to broad topical emphases: politics (in both [End Page 220] narrow and broad senses), religion, queer studies, and critical editions of primary sources as well as scholarly reference works.
This year produced several first-rate studies examining the interface of gender and politics. I begin with Katharine Gillespie's well-researched and beautifully written Women Writing the English Republic, 1625–1681, which presents a compelling extension of previous groundbreaking work in the study of seventeenth-century republican thought, mapping out territory opened up by Diane Purkiss's analysis of the role of gender in arguments about the republic in the civil wars and David Norbrook's study of the emergence in early modern English political thought of a repurposed Lucan "republican sublime"—the "progressive sublimation of the republic into the representative individual"—capable of demystifying the politically ruinous aura of "imperial monumentality" (p. 48). Gillespie calls for what she terms a "mythopoetic turn" (p. 42) in republican studies that frontally addresses the centrality of a "feminine republican sublime" (p. 47) in women's political writing of the era. Gillespie's extensive canvas, which includes such figures as Eleanor Davies, Anne Bradstreet, and Lucy Hutchinson, attends to women writers' fluent appropriation of classical and biblical tropes to describe republican-inspired precepts of political order and well-being. Gillespie's penetrating analyses of each voice powerfully demonstrate the book's core insight, that "the moral domain for republicanism—that is the site of political virtue in the resisting conscience—is invariably female" (p. 6). This is one of the most intellectually invigorating books that reached my desk this year.
Madeline Bassnett's Women, Food Exchange, and Governance in Early Modern England brings the growing field of food studies into conversation with recent work attending to the soft politics of household governance, food exchange, and women's writing—all of which established fluid networks that involved estate management, shaped emergent notions of a national Protestant food ethic based on an ethos of providential discipline, and laid the imaginative groundwork for "internationalist alliances and alternative communities that transcend national borders" (p. 12). The book is neatly divided into two parts, the first dealing with two moments of agricultural crisis (the 1590s and 1620s) and the imaginative responses of Mary Sidney Herbert and Elizabeth Clinton, respectively, in treating the crop failures as a catalyst for political critique of domestic and foreign policies of governance, and the second part analyzing Mary Hoby's and Mary Wroth's tactical refiguring of the household and communal dynamics of [End Page 221] "gift-giving and hospitality, feasting and fasting" as occasions to promote understanding of the intimate connections between food practices, prudential public order, and, in Wroth's case, the assertion of women's role in nurturing international coalitions. This is an absorbing study, with especially nuanced treatment of the gendered politics of food practices in Wroth's Urania.
Kirilka Stavreva's Words Like Daggers: Violent Female Speech in Early Modern England approaches a familiar topic—gendered uses and perceptions of violent speech—and reconceptualizes its cultural force across a wide range of settings—religious, legal, and theater discourses—through an imaginative performance-focused methodology incorporating insights from Judith Butler's reflections on the unsettling traits of embodied speech and Victor Turner's "processual symbology" (p. xviii). The book's very coherent design opens with a good analysis of the implicit speech-act theory embedded in the "fiery tongue" trope (p. xx) and its gender-inflected disruptiveness in early modern sermon literature. Subsequent chapters treat the unstable and diverse understandings of women's scolding as recorded in church court depositions; the textual and performance cues in stage representations of the shrew, which turn the negative stereotype into a prototype that "opened up for audience members livable models of gender fluidity" (p. xxi); a deft treatment of the surprising ethical critique of abusive power issuing from "low-born witch-speak" (p. xxii) on the Jacobean stage; and an illuminating analysis of the performative strategies deployed in the insurrectionary prophesies of Quaker women.
Martine van Elk's Early Modern Women's Writing: Domesticity, Privacy, and the Public Sphere in England and the Dutch Republic examines the multiple vectors—social, political, and literary—testifying to the various impacts that shifting notions of public and private, together with emergent perceptions of domesticity, had on female literacy and writing in the post-absolutist environments in England and the Dutch Republic. The transnational, Anglo-Dutch framework provides an illuminating crosscutting perspective on the widespread reach of a paradox for women writers during the decline of absolutism. Even as they gained access to diversely articulated public roles and voices, women often "represented themselves and other women writers along the lines of a traditional model of absolutist power and publicity" (p. 2). Such gestures, van Elk argues, were not simply recidivist, to the degree that they also functioned as a form of tactical nostalgia, signaling incipient efforts to "counter the new emphases on the [End Page 222] household, which were beginning to compromise female agency in the public realm" (p. 2). Topics covered include a comparison of English and Dutch household theory; different forms of elite background that produced complementary prototypes for female "publicity" in the careers of Mary Sidney Herbert in England and Anna Roemers Visscher in the Dutch Republic; a fascinating analysis of Margaret Cavendish's and Anna Maria van Schurman's tactical eccentricity; and a concluding examination of four dramas treating the Herod and Mariamne story—Elizabeth Carey's The Tragedy of Mariam, Samuel Pordage's Restoration play Herod and Mariamne, and two contemporary Dutch treatments of the story—with the ensemble pointing up sites of friction between private and public senses of female virtue.
Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1690, edited by James Daybell and Andrew Gordon, makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning "epistolary turn" in early modern scholarship on women's writing. The breadth of the materials examined in the volume, ranging from early Tudor aristocratic women's epistolary correspondence to Quaker correspondence in the interregnum Atlantic world, makes good on the claim to "deepen and broaden our understanding of the multifarious roles women played in politics, religion, science, education, the arts, and other public (not to mention private) spheres" in this period (p. 223). The essays' collective sense of forensic adventure affords detailed impressions of the gendered politics of archiving as well as the diverse ways in which the archived materials reflect shifting perceptions of gendered agency. Kim McLean-Fiander and Daybell's closing essay on the "challenges and possibilities" of a new digital interface and union catalog called Women's Early Modern Letters Online (WEMLO) should prove essential reading for scholars interested in this rich vein of archival study.
John Watkins's After Lavinia: A Literary History of Premodern Marriage Diplomacy enters a staggeringly complex field and teases out an extraordinary piece of comparatist and cross-disciplinary scholarship that shows how "the history of European marriage diplomacy was inseparable from the history of literary genre" (p. 10). The canvas is vast, ranging from the late antique era through the French late seventeenth century, and the mythopoetic paradigm of interdynastic marriage—Lavinia's marriage to Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid—lends focus to the long-range problems posed by Lavinia's silence in the epic: how to understand the conflicts faced by foreign brides who came to occupy such critical roles in European peacemaking, and how to register the scope of the [End Page 223] problems following the advent of the discrete nation-state and modern diplomacy's displacement of the marriage game as a tool in international relations. The book's first half moves from the foundational moment in Virgil's epic to the seeming high-water mark of marriage diplomacy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The book's second half studies the social and political transformations that contributed to the fraying of the dream, with especially fine attention paid to Shakespeare's contributions to the widening perceptions of marriage diplomacy's obsolescence and a moving account of a deep irony rendered in the plays of Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine, which depict how the "heroine's eloquence, and the actress's power over her audience, grew in inverse relation to the eclipse of women's traditional, albeit often only mythic, influence as peacemakers and intercessors on the future of Europe" (p. 175). This magisterial study, one of the year's touchstones, brilliantly shows how a cultural history of gendered silencing "can help us resist the fictions of progress … that have reconciled political thinkers both within and outside the academy to a world fragmented into competing nations" (p. 217).
Denys Van Renen's The Other Exchange: Women, Servants, and the Urban Underclass in Early Modern English Literature offers a complex genealogy of the triangulation of gender, class, and genre in a century's worth of literary observation of the "ideational basis for the emerging middle class" (p. 1), from Ben Jonson's The Staple of News (1626) to Elizabeth Haywood's prose fictions The British Recluse (1722) and The Mercenary Lover (1726). The linchpin of Van Renen's argument is a species of narrative irony based on a dynamic of appropriation and misrecognition. The book traces the literary archive's evidence of the process through which the "middling sort" assimilated, to the point of disowning, the resources of "improvisation and self-invention" associated with marginalized groups—women and the lower orders—as means to seize the "new opportunities offered by commercial and imperial expansion" that "laid the bedrock for England's rise" (p. 2). For Van Renen, Haywood's work, "poised on the threshold between romance and the novel" (p. 16), points up how the emerging genre's realist gestures carry uncanny fluency in disavowing the protagonists' involvement with the socioeconomic energies of vagabonds and outcasts—an anesthetized realism.
Helen Vella Bonavita's Illegitimacy and the National Family in Early Modern England presents a well-crafted argument that traces permutations in the politically resonant nexus of illegitimacy, processes of exclusion, and national identity, with focused [End Page 224] readings of the strategic uses of the notion of the bastard in three Shakespeare plays, King John, Richard II, and King Lear. The anthropological orientation of the interwoven arguments nicely conveys the diversity of ways in which exclusionary gestures introduced tectonic shifts in the political imaginaries of community and nation, though I was puzzled by the book's scant attention to the positionality of gender.
Scholarship on gender in the so-called "turn to religion" corridor in early modern studies has for some time invested in archival work to broaden understanding of women's writing practices in both literary and nonliterary genres. The three monographs I received in this area are major contributions to archivally driven research in this field. Paula McQuade's Catechisms and Women's Writing in Seventeenth-Century England casts significant light on a largely ignored topic, treating maternal catechesis as a capacious genre through which women writers from varied social stations thought critically about gender roles and the religious and political entailments of female authorship. McQuade's superbly contextualized analysis of six female catechists gives a detailed picture of the diversity of early modern women's experimental writing across print and manuscript catechism and across confessional as well as class divisions. McQuade's discussion of the numerous handwritten catechisms composed in the margins of printed catechisms also gives a tantalizing overview of a virtually unexplored field that awaits further study.
Jenna Lay's Beyond the Cloister: Catholic Englishwomen and Early Modern Literary Culture enriches critical understanding of how manuscript writings of early modern Catholic women, in recusant communities and religious orders, reveal hitherto unrecognized dimensions of Catholic women's engaged participation in the dynamism of English literary history on the ground, so to speak: outside the parameters of print culture and official Protestant ideology. One of the most striking and provocative features of the book's argument is its ongoing juxtaposition of canonical works and documents that have traditionally been the province of manuscript studies and church/confessional history. The book's unusual and sometimes counterintuitive pairings of material (for example, Lay's reading of the anti-Catholic gestures in John Webster's Duchess of Malfi in tandem with controversialist materials about and by the Bridgettine community of nuns at Syon Abbey) convey the intrigue of competing ambitions informing the lived contexts in which the writerly engagement of Catholic women intervened in what we now think of as mainstream literary [End Page 225] practice of the era. Cumulatively, the book's chapters present a sharp picture of an important dimension of the gendered poetics and politics of erasure in canon formation.
Isaac Stephens's The Gentlewoman's Remembrance: Patriarchy, Piety, and Singlehood in Early Stuart England is a rare achievement. Elizabeth Isham's 60,000-word spiritual autobiography has been widely available to scholars since the text's online publication in 2009, but Stephens's book is the first extensive study of Isham's work. Combining methodological principles of memory studies, microhistory, and genre studies, The Gentlewoman's Remembrance gives a richly detailed account of the multiple contexts that informed Isham's strategies for designing a "coherent narrative of her lifetime practices of Puritan self-monitoring and self-fashioning" (p. 29).
I received only one essay collection treating gender and religion, and it is a fine one. Conversions: Gender and Religious Change in Early Modern Europe, edited by Simon Ditchfield and Helen Smith, offers an engrossing gallery of new work that makes a compelling case for embracing methodologically diverse approaches to the interface of gender and religious conversion in early modernity. Nothing less, the editors suggest, will afford adequate measures of a long-recognized but still provocative datum: under the "combined effects of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations" and "pressure from the Ottoman Empire," early modern Europe "became a site in which an unprecedented number of people were confronted by new beliefs, and collective and individual religious identities were broken down and reconfigured" (pp. 1–2). The consistently strong essays are variously informed by recent work on gender performativity and embodiment, affective registers of selfhood, material practices and habits, sound studies, architectural history, and critical race studies. Collectively, the essays show how the reconfiguring dynamics of conversion mark "the fantasy and the reality of sexed encounters across domains ranging from the household to the inquisitorial court, the local parish to the far-flung mission" (p. 4). I particularly admire Saundra Weddle's essay on Venetian convent architecture and identity, Keith P. Luria's account of the cross-cultural challenges embedded in narratives of women's conversions in seventeenth-century Vietnam, and Kathleen Lynch's suggestive meditation on the conversion history of one "Dinah Massah a Blackmore" (p. 264) in the triangulated interface of gender, race, and "the visibility of Protestant saints" (p. 258). [End Page 226]
I turn briefly to two titles that offer welcome new work in friendship studies. Will Tosh's Male Friendship and Testimonies of Love in Shakespeare's England and Cedric C. Brown's Friendship and Its Discourses in the Seventeenth Century offer complementary, microhistorical approaches to two different arenas of study. Tosh reopens the archive on one of the most celebrated and challenging episodes in the history of sexuality and queer studies, the life and career of the Elizabethan diplomat and alleged "archetypal homosexual spy" Anthony Bacon (p. 7). Tosh takes Bacon's documented close friendship with four men (civil servant Nicholas Faunt, double agent Anthony Standen, government lawyer Nicholas Trott, and Edward Reynolds, personal secretary to the Earl of Essex) as material for a closely knit examination of available "friendship spaces" in early modern English culture that reveal "a far richer mix of instrumental, affective and erotic connections than we have assumed" (p. 7). Tosh's study brilliantly de-sensationalizes Bacon's exploits and bonds without erasing their edginess. Brown's study examines a later period spanning the Civil War, Commonwealth, and Restoration, and invests his principal case studies—John Evelyn, Milton, Dorothy Osborne/Temple and her husband Sir William Temple, and Katherine Philips—with nuanced attention to the great variety of his subjects' "lived friendships in all their textual and material forms" (p. 4). Largely bracketing the concerns of queer historiography, the book conveys a different sense of the sheer variety of early modern friendship practices, one that pairs well with Tosh's demonstration of the false dichotomy between instrumental and intimate aspects of friendship and also adds important reminders of the complex and widespread negotiations between classical and Christian paradigms of friendship.
Several valuable new works in gender studies appear in the format of critical editions and reference works. Preserving on Paper: Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen's Receipt Books, edited by Kristine Kowalchuk, proves an enthralling read. The judicious selection of three previously unpublished manuscripts of domestic manuals from the Folger Shakespeare Library (receipt books attributed respectively to Mary Granville and Anne Granville D'Ewes, Constance Hall, and Lettice Pudsey) represents the strangeness and exuberance of a genre that incorporates culinary recipes and medical recipes as well as household tips, with the whole affording valuable insights into the intertwined histories of women's collaborative writing and the history of food and medicine. Kowalchuk's well-balanced introduction makes a surprising turn to Mikhail [End Page 227] Bakhtin's study of François Rabelais's world as a lens through which to consider the receipt books' inherited legacy of oral folk culture, but the proof, as they say, is indeed in the pudding: the recipes themselves, carefully edited with an invaluable glossary, open a window onto a world attuned to folk culture's exuberant attention to the interplay of gustatory, therapeutic, and ethically responsive attitudes toward food cultivation, preparation, and distribution.
Hilary Hinds's critical edition of Anna Trapnel's Report and Plea; or, A Narrative of Her Journey from London into Cornwall aims primarily at scholars focused on early modern women's writing at the intersection of radical religion and politics, but this publication certainly deserves broad exposure for its expert presentation of Trapnel's text as well as the cultural environment that both enabled and thwarted the voice and political activism of the Fifth Monarchy prophet. Hinds's excellent introduction includes a helpful overview of recent engagement with Trapnel's life and works, extending from early modern studies to contemporary music and performance. Trapnel's afterlife in twenty-first century musical and community-building expression makes perfect sense, to judge from Hinds's account of how Trapnel's interventionist tactics were perhaps by no coincidence also generically hybrid, moving dexterously between "autobiography, travel narrative, polemic, and personal defense" … with the aim of reaching "as diverse and plentiful an audience as possible" (pp. 3 and 35).
A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts, 1500–1650, edited by Carole Levin, Anna Riehl Bertolet, and Jo Eldridge Carney, boasts an intelligent and extremely useful organizational scheme, with entries listed (and cross-referenced as necessary) according to categories that best describe each woman's life (for example, "Patrons and Philanthropists," "Scholars," "Witches," and so forth). The concisely written entries include a source listing and suggestions for further reading (the latter are sometimes cursory, but more systematic coverage arguably falls beyond the scope of an already substantial work). Enhanced with handsomely reproduced illustrations, this volume should become a standard reference for students and scholars alike.
Editing Early Modern Women, edited by Sarah C. E. Ross and Paul Salzman, offers an invaluable itinerary through the current issues in editing early modern women's writing. Contributors—eminent scholars in the field—approach these matters by taking specific case studies (see, for example, Leah Marcus's essay on [End Page 228] editing Queen Elizabeth I's writings and Mary Ellen Lamb's discussion of the specific editing challenges associated with Wroth's Countess of Montgomery's Urania), and the editors have helpfully grouped the essays under distinctive conceptual canopies: editorial ideologies, editing challenges related to gendered dimensions of the genres associated with women's writing, and editing decisions attuned to broadening communicative and teaching possibilities. This splendid volume assesses the productive tension between editorial principles based on idealist conceptions of an authoritative edition and editing practices that are "'fit to purpose'; that are responsive, historicized, and draw from a range of available editorial options," including ones based on "textual-ist and materialist literary-critical agendas" (pp. 259 and 6). The concluding essay, by Patricia Pender and Rosalind Smith, offers an informative perspective of the advantages and challenges associated with their forthcoming digital archive, Material Cultures of Early Modern Women's Writing, as well as other recent platforms. Their judicious assessment of the digital environment usefully complements the diagnostic found in McLean-Fiander and Daybell's discussion of the same topic in Women and Epistolary Agency, mentioned above.
This year there were fewer titles in sexuality studies than I expected to find, but the range (including Tosh's study, noted above) demonstrates the continuing vitality of the field. Alex Wong's The Poetry of Kissing in Early Modern Europe: From the Catullan Revival to Secundus, Shakespeare, and the English Cavaliers treats a long-overdue topic—the poetry of kissing, or the basium tradition—and traces the genre's often ironic permutations from the end of the Roman Republic through the Neo-Latin experiments of Renaissance humanist poets and into vernacular appropriations in the British Isles, from Sir Philip Sidney to the Cavalier poet Thomas Stanley. By attending to the "workings of imitation and genre" in Renaissance verse, Wong foregrounds how the basium tradition, established by the Dutch humanist poet Janus Secundus's Basia (1541), offered measurable "latitude for play" (p. 135)—well beyond the Petrarchan, Ovidian, or Ciceronian legacies—in English love lyrics' representations of masculine sexuality and gender expectations.
Simone Chess's Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature: Gender, Performance, and Queer Relations offers a bracing examination of a phenomenon that has long been hidden in plain sight in the early modern literary archive and strangely overlooked in early modern studies: scenes in which men pass [End Page 229] for women (MTF rather than FTM crossdressing). Chess's precise application of recent scholarship in relational gender theory and trans* theory shows where concerns over anachronistic readings of early modern gender performance and sexual affiliation are valid and where they mask habits of blindness or resistance to the ferment of early modern experiment and negotiation. Chess's attention to generic specificities is inconsistent, but the high-concept approach driving the argument is compelling, notably for its clear-eyed inspection of how episodes of MTF crossdressing across the literary canon challenge the expectation of male privilege in the gendered marriage economy, explore the denaturalizing and socially tonic effects of "doublecrossdressing encounters" (p. 20), imagine the queered desire of female characters toward MTF crossdressers, and argue for the cocreative value of "gender labor" by showing "an unexpected, exciting aspect of partnered investment in queer gender" (p. 22).
Any book that begins with a recollection of Roland Barthes's chiaroscuro montage of memory and desire in A Lover's Discourse would have my immediate attention, and I was dazzled by the imaginative reach of Sexuality and Memory in Early Modern England: Literature and the Erotics of Recollection, edited by John S. Garrison and Kyle Pivetti. The editors' lucid introductory chapter lays out the volume's central concerns, which develop organically from the foundational perception of the intimate link between "the recollection of erotics" and the "erotics of recollection" to the perhaps more pointed perception of the intimacy between early modern writers' desire to reclaim and revivify the past and contemporary queer studies' desire to take seriously the profound link between sexuality, "constituted by anticipation, reaction, climax, retrospection, and repetition," the operations of personal and collective memory, and queer historiography's desire to resist the fetish of teleology and seek out a more robust and generous relation with the historical past by remembering it relationally as an object of desire as well as an object of critical analysis. There is no weak link in the sixteen essays, and the collection is interestingly divided into three sections addressing broad conceptual canopies: "Legacies of Desire," "Bodies, Remember," and "Intimate Refusals." For a good sample of the range of work, I recommend starting with Kenneth Hodges's essay on "Guinevere's Ghost" in Spenser (p. 81), Robert Darcy's essay on "false muscle memory" in Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe (p. 112), and Amanda Bailey's essay on the "politics of regenerate loss" in Hamlet (p. 220). [End Page 230]
Will Stockton's Members of His Body: Shakespeare, Paul, and a Theology of Nonmonogamy offers a powerful reconsideration and recarving of the turf Marc Shell examined in his 1988 anthropological study of the relation between marriage and incest. Informed by queer theory's investigation of the complex and often contradictory doctrinal and pastoral history leading to the elevation of monogamous marriage as a sign of participation in the "body of Christ" (p. 5), Stockton maps a route through the Pauline canon on sexual morality and its critical reception in Shakespeare (The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Winter's Tale) to show how "the marriage of husband and wife to the body of Christ cuts against idealizations of monogamy, often to violent and perverse ends" (p. 6). In Stockton's account, Shakespeare's idiom reveals profound awareness of the fissures and incoherence in Christian tradition's religious explanation for the sanctity of monogamous marriage and from this awareness opens up imaginative possibilities for understanding "fleshly union" as a deterritorializing gesture that does not elect one (monogamous) model over other incarnations of the communal ideal of marriage. The argument is not irrigated as much as it might be by recent feminist and queer theologies or relevant meditations by Jean-Luc Nancy and Bruno Latour on the mutable dynamism of corporeality, but Stockton's critical assessments of the plays are provocative and compelling.
Jeffrey Masten's Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare's Time is a tour de force of erudition and intellectual wit that maps out a new region of scholarship: "queer philology" (p. 1). Recalling the lesson of Michel Foucault, who insisted that the study of sexuality was inherently also the study of the historical and cultural permutations of words like "homosexual, sodomy, and tribade" (p.15), Masten undertakes a vast philological program to show how vagaries and occluded regularities of early modern sex/gender vocabularies are intimately woven into specific traits of early modern orthography, rhetorical structures, etymologies, and familial bonds between words and word clusters. The book's beguiling organization—moving from "Friendship" to "Boy-Desire" to "Sodomy" to "Editing Philologies"—anatomizes the robust circulatory system of language use that captures the play between multiple grades of normativity and possibility in early modern perceptions of sexed and gendered language. Masten's virtuoso excursions into the forgotten or elided suggestiveness of the words "sweet" and "fundament" are highlights of this absorbing and groundbreaking work. [End Page 231]
LITERATURE, LAW, POLITICS
Few areas of early modern scholarship hold more methodological and conceptual minefields than the cross-disciplinary enterprise that places the forms, terms, and practices of literature, law, and politics into conversation for heuristic or diagnostic ends. The history of the subfield could well be described as an object lesson in the limitations of I. A. Richards's famous two-part structure of metaphor—tenor and vehicle—with law and literature caught in territorial claims for substantive priority, and with political discourse often enlisted as the instrument of a "fuzzy logic" to mediate between literary and legal arenas. The year's publications in this subfield all contribute powerfully to recent scholarship's reconfiguration of interpretive protocols for understanding the co-implication of law, literature, and political thought in the early modern period, before modernity's disciplinary distinctions and regimens took hold.
Christopher N. Warren's Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580–1680 is a major achievement. Warren offers a magisterial account of how early modern literary genres inflected the discourses of modern international law. The optic also exposes a genealogy of the ambiguities that have characterized contemporary understanding of the scope and nature of international law. Extending the important work by Victoria Kahn, Lorna Hutson, and Bradin Cormack in advancing the legal turn in early modern literary studies, Warren's study provides a granular inspection of how early modern assemblages of literary genres—epic, comic, tragicomic, historical, and tragic topoi—both anticipated and created "the multiplicity of contemporary international law, in which subfields like human rights, the laws of war, international commercial law, and so forth, co-exist in uneasy proximate relation" (p. 19). Warren highlights the ironies of this complex legacy by showing how the "plural, overlapping landscape of early modern genres" informed the "plural, overlapping landscape of subspecialties now identified as international law," while eighteenth-century taxonomies effectively masked this legacy by separating literary aesthetics from "a professionalized field of international law" with few incentives to question its "absolutist assumptions" and mystified field of operation (p. 228). Important early modern jurists like Aberico Gentili and Hugo Grotius are the book's through-line, and the argument builds momentum as it moves through alert inspections of Sidney's New Arcadia, Shakespeare's Pericles, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale, Thomas Hobbes's translation of [End Page 232] Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, and an interesting pairing of Grotius's biblical tragedy Sophompaneas with Milton's Samson Agonistes. Warren's combination of legal and literary fluency persuasively shows how these texts belong to a forgotten history of international law that needs to be remembered.
The macrohistorical breadth of Warren's study is nicely complemented by Jessica Winston's Lawyers at Play: Literature, Law, and Politics at the Early Modern Inns of Court, 1558–1581, which offers a long overdue examination of the literary network that coalesced around the legal societies of the Inns of Court in the 1560s. Winston's microanalysis shows how the junior members' literary endeavors across several genres "helped to raise the status of early modern legal men and the common law" (p. 12). Precisely because the tactics and achievements of the individual and collective experiments that Winston studies were eclipsed by the literary ferment of the century's last two decades, Lawyers at Play offers a rare opportunity to observe the decisive role that the imbricated literary and legal practices occupied in legitimizing and consolidating the political import of hybrid literary-legal discourse. The book shows how specific literary genres associated with the Inns—lyric poetry, classical translations, Mirror for Magistrates, and a wide range of dramas, including Senecan tragedies, Gorbuduc, and a number of marriage plays—established "associational networks" through which the culture of the Inns invented a vehicle for "collective political expression" (p. 16).
Where Winston's book sheds light on a relatively understudied field, James Knowles's Politics and Political Culture in the Court Masque effectively enlarges critical perception of the functions and aspirations of a much-studied genre: Jacobean and Caroline Court masques. The introduction gives a lucid overview of scholarship in the field, underscoring the need to explore the implication of Malcom Smuts's call to envision the "poly-centric" character of the Court masque, with an eye to the "possibility of political and cultural divergence amongst its constituent parts" (p. 7). Organized (like Winston's book) as a series of case studies, Knowles's argument retraces the career of the Jonsonian masque and concludes with a brilliant account of James Shirley's creative appropriation of the Jonsonian legacy in The Triumph of Peace (1633). The cumulative picture of the masques' dialogic character, speaking to other political texts and performance spaces outside the Court, visibly "embody processes of testing out the boundaries of licit and illicit speech as civility situations are established and negotiated" (p. 12). [End Page 233]
Alison A. Chapman's The Legal Epic: "Paradise Lost" and the Early Modern Law nominally belongs in the "Individual Authors" category; I include it here because of its deep engagement with the principles and terms of seventeenth-century law and jurisprudence. One of the most pellucid books I read for this review, The Legal Epic persuasively shows how the era's legal discourses, practices, and associated ideas permeate Milton's theodicy in Paradise Lost. The book's argument turns on two core insights: that Milton's grasp of the legal resonances to two key terms in the epic—"assert" and "justify"—lays the groundwork for the poem's sustained vision, contra Calvinist theology, that "God's justice runs a comprehensible course" (p. 6), and that the "outward orientation of the law" in the poem (p. 9) posits a providential design to an internalized rule of law, nascent in the poem's depiction of prelapsarian Eden and promoted as the enabling condition for "prototypical ideas of legal justice" that persist in postlapsarian society as signs of humans' capacity to resist "the idolatry of the law" and reclaim agency to "help create the conditions for justice to flourish" (pp. 15 and 34). The book's elegant and clear structure, moving sequentially through the narrative stages of the epic, shows how Paradise Lost systematically incorporates legal perspectives on criminal law, civil law, and the deliberative challenges of jurisprudence, notably in the practice of pardons. Cumulatively, Chapman's argument mounts a powerful case for reading Paradise Lost as both a narrative witness to Milton's suspicion of the "growing mystique" of common law (p. 249) and an assertion of humans' capacity to speak the truths encoded in conscience and theological tradition as reparative gestures aimed at closing the distance between lex and jus.
Giuseppina Iacono Lobo's Writing Conscience and the Nation in Revolutionary England fills a lacuna in early modern scholarship on conscience by offering a closely argued account of the manifold discourses of conscience as a tool of radical political thought in seventeenth-century England. Marshaling an impressive body of diverse materials—manuscript and printed letters, political pamphlets, contemporary marginalia, and engravings, in addition to poetry, biography, and political philosophy—Iacono Lobo's study has the feel of a thick description of a slowly emergent phenomenon, the ascendancy of conscience as a public intervention rather than a mainly private forum for deliberation. Topics range from Charles I's Eikon Basilike and Oliver Cromwell's ardent defenses of the political necessity of "liberty of conscience" (p. 21) to the curious, and brave, case of Lucy Hutchinson's Memoirs of the Life [End Page 234] of Colonel Hutchinson, a text that seemingly advances a species of revisionist history—the wife's redemption of the husband's recanted republican allegiances—as a matter of conscience for the sake of "the future of the English nation" (p. 149), and Milton's career-long endeavor to mine the archive on conscience to promote the image of a nation framed not by borders but rather by structures of "conscientious dissent" (p. 22). I wished for more vigorous theorization of the gendering of the radicalized discourse of conscience, but this quibble takes nothing away from the book's successful demonstration of how the etymological derivation of the word "conscience" (to know with) enjoyed a robust career, for a time, as a critical tool in the machinery of nation-building.
With epic sweep, Kevin Killeen's The Political Bible in Early Modern England persuasively argues that the Bible (Old Testament books in particular) and the unprecedented scope of biblical literacy in seventeenth-century England function as a kind of Rosetta Stone, affording access to a widely diffused "political epistemology" (p. 238) and affective apparatus of "elective ancestry" (p. 9) that extended well beyond the era's enclaves of radical and revolutionary thought. Tellingly, for Killeen, the Bible's naturalized political currency has largely been eclipsed by historians' emphasis on native political traditions or Renaissance humanism's absorption of classical ideas as the twin coils of the emergent nation-state's "political memory" (p. 8). Killeen's introductory overview of contemporary biblical reading habits opens onto a fine-grained analysis of the typological fluency with which biblical commentators and sermonists cultivated habits of "forensic attention" (p. 243) that transformed the cautionary tales of erring or depraved kings in the Books of Judges, Kings, and Chronicles into supple yet also razor-sharp equipment for "articulating principles of justice and of polity" (p. 239). Killeen's book captures, with precision and grace, a riveting sense of the era's biblical literacy as a "tonal" rather than systemic mode of political thinking (p. 240).
Steven W. May and Alan Bryson's Verse Libel in Renaissance England and Scotland is a major contribution to early modern manuscript studies. The editors bring to light fifty-two verse libels from the 1560s to the end of the century, material that represents a species of satiric invective that did not reach print, though it remained "pervasive in manuscript circulation" for decades (p. v). The volume has a superb introduction to the history and editorial challenges of the genre, followed by chapters addressing broadly representative libels, Court libels, religious libels, Scottish libels, [End Page 235] Inns of Court libels, parliamentary libels, and university libels, each with meticulous editorial apparatus and textual notes and commentary. The editors claim that the narrowly legal or political significance of the material is slim, emphasizing instead the libels' literary and aesthetic value, with specific attention paid to libellers' parasitic ingenuity in "adapting more than a half dozen genres to their malicious purposes" (p. 52). Reading this argument in the context of Warren's and Winston's respective treatments of the diverse expressions of the era's hybrid literary-legal mentalité suggests that May and Bryson's achievement will prove a useful resource for scholars reexamining the law-and-literature divide.
Early Modern Diplomacy, Theatre, and Soft Power: The Making of Peace, edited by Nathalie Rivère de Carles, proved to be one of the most enthralling reads in the year's yield of essay collections. Its expansive range of perspectives and materials makes summary of individual parts difficult, but there is a legible through-line—a supple blend of network theory and the international relations concept of "soft power," which entails "policies which create an environment for the exchange of ideas, services, and goods" (pp. 4–5). The essays are arranged under three sections, the first focusing on temporal factors in tactics of appeasement, the second on staged representations of the ambassador function, and the third on cross-confessional appeasement. Throughout, the volume foregrounds the informing role of genre in articulating soft power, ranging from Jane O. Newman's expert tracing of the links between the Treaty of Westphalia and the rise of the German Baroque Trauerspiele, or mourning plays, to Ladan Niayesh's fascinating examination of the "silk power" contributing to the visual rhetoric of self-promotion and "oriental self-staging" (p. 206) in the portraits of Persian ambassador Robert Shirley.
THE RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY, AND LITERATURE NEXUS
The year's contributions to scholarship on the commingling of literary and religious or philosophical idioms intriguingly point away from the received critical practice of identifying confessional boundaries or negotiated accommodations, often with the nationbuilding project in sight. Instead, most of the books under review in this category inspect early modern poets' and dramatists' gestures toward a vision of reparative ethics and irenic possibility attuned to a spiritualized sense of community and irreducible to institutional markers of nationalist or religious identity or narrowly aesthetic surrogation. If these books indicate a trend, it [End Page 236] is most certainly a timely one. Daniel R. Gibbons's Conflicts of Devotion: Liturgical Poetics in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England has a misleading title, but that is my sole complaint. Gibbons produces a beautifully executed narrative designed to show precisely how the "rhetoric of accommodation" installed in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer set the template for a "liturgical poetics" (p. 7) that was generously adapted and expanded in the poetic heuristics of Spenser, Robert Southwell, John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, all of whom marshaled the technical resources of their craft to "rebuild a sense of spiritual community that had been damaged by the religious turmoil of the early sixteenth century" (p. 20).
Paul D. Stegner's Confession and Memory in Early Modern English Literature: Penitential Remains provides a bracing new perspective on the enduring cultural appeal of auricular confession in early modern England by highlighting the consolatory effects of the penitential process and placing those effects in the memory studies context of the interplay of private and social memory and then showing how the confession/memory dyad is generically inflected "by a variety of literary forms, including epic, tragedy, sonnet sequence, and complaint" (p. 6). Stegner's argument does more than set aside the blinkered Foucauldianism that reduces confession's function to a procedure of surveillance and discipline; it powerfully shows how genre plays its hand in shaping and guiding early modern writers' interest in offering "sustained explorations of the spiritual, memorial, and affective dynamics of the penitential process" (p. 6). The closing chapter on Southwell's turn to the complaint genre in Saint Peter's Complaint to craft a species of proactive nostalgia equipped to confront "the breakdown of spiritual and communal bonds after the Reformation" is particularly rewarding (p. 9).
Constance M. Furey's Poetic Relations: Intimacy and Faith in the English Reformation brings the author's expertise as a religious studies scholar and wide-ranging familiarity with literary scholarship in early modern religious poetry to the question of "how attention to poetic relations might revitalize the study of belief" (p. 16), primarily in the field of religious studies, where the flood tide of Renaissance devotional and religious poetry is an untapped resource, but also secondarily in early modern literary studies, where Furey's attention to "poetry's distinctive forms of relational selfhood," guided by the astute perception that "form is the medium of relationality" (pp. 15 and 13), may attract interest for its conceptual rigor. I was not entirely convinced by the [End Page 237] rationale for the exclusion of Catholic or borderline Catholic poets from Furey's canvas, which appears to accept Protestantism's exceptional claim to foster inwardness as the channel of the believer's relationship with God. That quibble aside, Furey's project to retheorize the dynamics of relational selfhood benefits from the astute division of the topic into four categories—authorship, friendship, love, and marriage—that speak to current foci in early modern literary studies. "Authorship," for example, focuses on the gendered dynamics of relational selfhood in the poetry of Anne Locke, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Aemilia Lanyer, and "Eroticism" interestingly teases out aspects of Christological and Trinitarian eroticism in the poetry of Donne and Lanyer. Furey's attentive readings point up an often overlooked legacy that understands belief not as cognitive process but rather as a dimension of the "inescapable poetics of relationality" (p. 171).
Jonathan Baldo and Isabel Karremann's Forms of Faith: Literary Form and Religious Conflict in Early Modern England further advances the reparative dimension to work on literature and religion. The well-crafted essays in this interesting collection share the assumption that the diversity of communicative media in early modern culture—including literary genres, festive practices, and sacramental rituals—helped cultivate a generalized interest in imagining what the thought of "religious pluralization and its irenic potential" (p. 2) might look and feel like in an era officially marked by confessional strife. Conveniently divided into two sections, "Religious Ritual and Literary Form" and "Negotiating Confessional Conflict," the essays highlight the era's intuitive and performative grasp of an ecumenical instinct that would not produce a flourishing legacy but nonetheless warrants interest for its transient vision of future reconciliation. A response by the editors to Richard Wilson's somewhat dissonant afterword would have helped clarify how such dissonance is symptomatic of tensions in the field.
Kathy Lavezzo's The Accommodated Jew: English Antisemitism from Bede to Milton is the sole book I received on the topic of Jewish-Christian relations. Lavezzo brilliantly draws on the resources of cultural geography and materialist history to show how the unpredictable and often contradictory Christian perceptions of Jews speak to a "poetics of accommodation" that "authorizes and urges its geographic opposite: isolation, confinement, and exile" (pp. 4–5). Lavezzo's attention to the "spatial and geographic dimensions" of the assembled material shows how Christian-Jewish relations, built from the "mutual constitution of selves [End Page 238] and spaces," was a "fraught endeavor marked by heterogeneity, change, overlap, and slippage" (p. 8). Crucially, Lavezzo's study shows with great precision how the figure of the "Jew" became a central figure in the process of selective vision by which the English "accommodated themselves and negotiated their relationship to the bourgeois, profit-minded, and domesticated sensibility they came to embrace and embody" (p. 27).
Finally, there are four interesting volumes that methodologically fall outside the mainstream of the year's works in this section. Małgorazata Grzegorzewska's George Herbert and Post-Phenomenology: A Gift for Our Times presents a carefully paced excursion through the "affective poetics" (p. 32) informing George Herbert's The Temple, and the excursion produces what surely must be the first sustained dialogue between Herbert's sensibility and craft and the network of philosophical and theological concepts found in the works of French post-phenomenologists Marcel Henry, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Louis Chrétien, and Jean-Luc Marion. Grzegorzewska's attention to the "incarnational" character (p. 8) of Herbert's idiom finds illuminating resonances in the above-mentioned philosophers' inflections to notions of body, gift, flesh, sensory responsiveness, and suffering. This unusually luminous meditation on Herbert's paradoxically "plain" yet also "enfleshed" and "frequently opaque poetic idiom" (p. 9) presents an interesting complement to Furey's Poetic Relations. The essays gathered in Breaking the Silence: Poetry and the Kenotic Word, edited by Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward, and Mark Burrows share a similar investment in rethinking parameters for a theologically infused poetics. I mention the volume for the interest readers of this journal may find in two finely executed essays on early modern topics: Marcin Polkowski's elegant discussion of the intimacy between oracular and incarnational discourse in the Sybilline tradition, and Klaudia Łączyńska's suggestive analysis of Andrew Marvell's varied attempts to devise a poetics enacting a "fleshy" (p. 253) dispersal of stable meaning. Lastly, The Routledge Companion to Literature and Religion, edited by Mark Knight, provides an encyclopedic overview of core concepts in the literature-and-religion nexus. The essays in the "Theory" and "Form and Genre" sections are especially rewarding for their appeal to nonspecialists and specialists alike. The volume's three contributions to early modern studies—Ben Saunders on the problem of evil in King Lear, John D. Cox on hospitality in The Winter's Tale, and Susannah Brietz Monta on the provocative coupling of religious questions and the sonnet form in Donne's Holy Sonnets—repay careful reading. [End Page 239]
I have reserved Maximilian de Gaynesford's The Rift in the Lute: Attuning Poetry and Philosophy for last in this section. "Attunement" carries powerful associations with phenomenological approaches to literature and philosophical hermeneutics, but de Gaynesford takes the word in a different sense, to mean the mutually adaptive encounter between principles of speech act theory (with a critical reevaluation of J. L. Austin's concepts and method), analytic philosophy, and poetic utterances' arcs of represented thought. De Gaynesford's deeply attentive engagement with Shakespeare's sonnets—the heart of the book—exhibits a technically precise species of slow reading that shows how "poetry and philosophy come to be paired forms of insight and inquiry into the way the world is and what is of value in it" (p. 33).
ECOLOGY STUDIES AND POSTHUMAN MATERIALISMS
The field of early modern ecology studies has been gaining ground for some time, together with interest in imagining how posthuman inflections to materialist inquiry have effectively decentered androcentric and the critical-gaze-as-clinical-autopsy approach to the early modern archive. The past year's publications in this area exhibit the field's ongoing and enormous productivity. Ground-Work: English Renaissance Literature and Soil Science, edited by Hillary Eklund, is a well-balanced and judiciously shaped collection contributing to the emerging field of "Renaissance soil science" (p. 1). Collectively, the contributors inspect and reclaim early modern tactics for reimagining how human forms of sociality and community are deeply imbricated in shifting practices and questions concerning land management, soil ecologies, and the cultural as well as agrarian productivity of human and animal waste. The uniformly rewarding essays include striking contributions by Frances E. Dolan, whose essay teases out resonances between the art of composting and emergent attunement to an ethics of care associated with recyclable matter; David B. Goldstein's fine-grained inspection of the broad palette of poetic and cultural concerns to be found in the textual figurations of manure and soil husbandry; and Eklund's generously detailed optics on early modern wetlands and their forgotten legacy. Though often stigmatized in the era as the reflexive object of suspicion or fear, wetlands, Eklund argues, "keep the very secret of the soil: that it is not so solid as we suppose, and that modern notions of property and personhood that have their philosophical roots in the early [End Page 240] modern period are built on a very limited understanding of what counts as 'land' and what habitation involves" (p. 170).
Lowell Duckert's For All Waters: Finding Ourselves in Early Modern Wetscapes is one of the most rewarding books I read for this review. Beautifully written, it employs a methodologically supple approach, combining the materialist instincts of cultural geography and a Latourian approach to the project of "ecocom-position" (p. 34), which aims to heighten awareness of the porous boundaries between the natural, the social, and the cultural. Among the book's pleasures, I single out the fresh perspective brought to Sir Walter Ralegh's Discoverie of Guiana (1596), which focuses on Ralegh's perceptive attunement to the Guianan waterscape as a "capillary meshwork of non/human things, a place of unlimited horizons and sinuous pathways" and the hazardous implications of such attunement for his subsequent career (p. 42). The book also documents how early modern expeditions to the Arctic—and the attendant drama of "going glacial" (p. 43)—precipitate novel ways of imagining the challenge of "being-with the ice world" (p. 43); Duckert offers a satisfying counterpoise to the glacial imaginary with an absorbing account of the interanimating poetic, political, and cultural provocations of swamps, specifically New England swamps as these became legible contact and conflict zones between European adventurers and indigenous tribes during King Philip's War. The book's advocacy for "ontological humility" in the face of the "coimplication of water and human" powerfully envisions a "posthuman ethics" attuned to the simple yet powerful fact that "water writes, and through that inscription we glimpse water's rights" (p. 30).
Julian Yates's Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast: A Multispecies Impression is another of the year's tours de force, an exhilarating rumination on the strange intimacies between nonhuman and human life forms and practices that open a way to imagine the "multispecies" shapes of what we think we know about early modern culture and its textual remains. While it is possible to read Yates's procedure as a biopolitically alert extension of actor-network theory and object-oriented ontology, those denominations barely capture the multispecies character of the gestures this book deploys as it encounters and ventriloquizes the silent drama performed "across supposed divides between differently animated beings, charting their crosscutting or interlacing through the general flesh that we receive parceled out into different archival forms" (p. 26). The quick nod to Maurice Merleau-Ponty's suggestive notion of the expansive "flesh" of shared and intertwined [End Page 241] being opens up a universe in which Yates invites us to observe the secret life of sheep, oranges, and yeast in their generous capacity as "hospitable grafts" that enable us to see how our "built worlds" derive from "alliances of animal, plant, fungal, and mineral actors" (p. 31).
LITERATURE AND SCIENCE STUDIES
Awarded the 2015 British Society for Literature and Science Prize, Claire Preston's The Poetics of Scientific Investigation in Seventeenth-Century England offers a meticulous inspection of the ferment of exchange between the evolving forms and procedures of early modern natural sciences and the era's familiar and emerging modes of rhetorical and literary expression. The book effectively opens new ways of understanding multiple vectors of chiastic figuration in the seventeenth century: the common perception that poetic expression "is part of scientific discovery," just as scientific writing "produced a specialized, varied poetics, sometimes borrowed and adapted from lay writing, sometimes developed in new forms and styles for its technical, philosophical purposes" (p. 32). The book's appeal lies partly in the great range of topics it weaves together: reflections on Thomas Browne's and Robert Boyle's different preoccupations about admixtures of the rhetorical and the empirical; a fluent treatment of how the virtual spaces associated with utopian fables of "eirenic intellectual cooperation" (p. 31) and fictions of epistolary correspondence helped rezone confluences between rhetorical and empirical procedures; and a fine examination of the diverse styles of writing that characterized georgic communities and political sodalities. Like the terrain it covers, Preston's argument marries rhetorical elegance with the patterned clarity of the quincunxes admired by Browne.
The Palgrave Handbook of Early Modern Literature and Science, edited by Howard Marchitello and Evelyn Tribble, is part of a five-volume series organized by conventional historical periods, from the medieval era to the current moment. It is impossible to do justice to the range and exuberance of writing and critical perspectives that Marchitello and Tribble have assembled for the volume. The uniformly strong contributions vividly demonstrate how the mantra of interdisciplinary inquiry has become naturalized as a methodological given in this field, without losing its capacity to reinvent itself. The book is helpfully and tactically divided into four sections—"Theorizing Early Modern Science and Literature," "Reading Matter," "Pre-Disciplinary Knowledge," and [End Page 242] "Modalities"—and the cross-cutting reading habit encouraged by the convocation of voices shows how "today's disciplinary divides are back-formations, impositions of binary order upon a much richer and heterogeneous historical realm" (p. xxxiv). To give just one example, placing Wendy Beth Hyman's "'Deductions from Metaphors': Figurative Truth, Poetical Language, and Early Modern Science" (from part 1) in conversation with Barbara M. Benedict's "Curiosity and the Occult: The Ambiguities of Science in Eighteenth-Century British Literature" (from part 3) and Jean E. Feerick's "Poetic Science: Wonder and the Seas of Cognition in Bacon and Pericles" (from part 4) vividly points up how "so-called scientific writing turns out to traffic in metaphor, wit, imagination, and the playfulness normally associated with the literary arts, and literature provides material forms and rhetorical strategies for thinking physics, mathematics, archaeology, and medicine" (p. xliv).
Charis Charalampous's Rethinking the Mind-Body Relationship in Early Modern Literature, Philosophy, and Medicine: The Renaissance of the Body provides a welcome reexamination of strands of philosophical reflection on the mind-body relation in the early modern literary archive. Charalampous's argument emphasizes how William Ockham's dualism, which posited the material, mortal body as an independent cognitive agent, remained available as a suggestive counterpoint to René Descartes's philosophy of the mind-body relationship and Hobbes's monist materialism. The book offers finely gauged accounts of Ockham's legacy in chapters treating Michel de Montaigne's ontological theory, Spenser's allegorical practice, the fascination with the idea of a thinking/feeling body in Donne's poetics, Milton's evocations of a "melodic language" (p. 19) capable of countering discursive, semantic expression, and an informative closing discussion of the links between early modern engagements with the Ockhamist notion of the "intelligent body" and twenty-first century cognitive theories.
AFFECT AND SENSORY STUDIES
Like ecology studies, early modern sensory studies' imaginative cross-disciplinary procedures testify to the diverse ways in which the felt experience of the present and imminent shapes of the future were registered in the early modern past. Some of the most intellectually rewarding publications that came to my desk in the past year make important inroads in this area and point up its timely value. Erin Sullivan's Beyond Melancholy: Sadness [End Page 243] and Selfhood in Renaissance England takes the familiar nexus of sadness, melancholy, grief, and despair and persuasively shows how much more variegated the existential and cultural meanings of these co-implicated self-states turn out to be, despite the abundant critical attention the topics have received in recent decades. The book makes good on its claim to demonstrate how the permuting shapes and effects of sadness in the early modern period testify to a "more dynamic, pluralistic, and at times unpredictable model of affective selfhood than has previously been acknowledged" (p. 4). Looking at standard treatises on the passions, early modern medical case notes, spiritual diaries, devotional lyrics and manuals, sermon literature, together with touchstone literary texts, such as Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and Shakespeare's As You Like It and Merchant of Venice, Sullivan combines empirical historical research, philosophical reflection, and resourceful use of the tools of narrative analysis to explore sadness's iridescence as signifier and agent of unsettling change. In the concluding chapter on despair, Sullivan's nuanced account of the well-publicized spiritual crisis and death of the Italian apostate Francesco Spiera (1502–48) exemplifies the book's core insight, that the psychological and cultural eddies of sadness served more often than not as a catalyst for "emotive improvisation" that could turn hazard into a "powerful form of social or political resistance" or "a kind of spiritual insight, enabling unusual understanding and even prophetic knowledge" (p. 199).
The Senses in Early Modern England, 1558–1660, edited by Simon Smith, Jackie Watson, and Amy Kenny, offers new scholarship aiming to demonstrate the dense texture of ways in which early modern writers and artists recorded sensory experience and coped with its ephemerality and communicative limits. Methodologically, the volume does not quite come to terms with the contradictions attending sensory studies' ambition to recover the avowedly lost "sensory experience of subjects living some four hundred years ago" (p. 1) without also taking into account the possibility that the very historicity of the evidentiary material may not conduce to a stable or transparent recovery project. That said, the editors' introduction presents a useful overview of the field, duly noting the contours of the methodological crux. So long as evidentiary questions are not pressed too far and the proposed status of artworks as witnesses to past emotive experience is taken in a generic and exemplary sense, the volume offers an interesting if traditionally conceived opening itinerary through the five senses followed by a series of well-conceived excursions [End Page 244] into contextual applications. The concluding section on aesthetic sensory experience offers fresh takes on familiar topics, with Simon Smith's discussion of the role of "visual musical experience" (p. 167) in Anthony and Cleopatra, Faye Tudor's inspection of how early modern women painters (Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi) employed mirror allusions to overturn the mirror's standard function as a means of ocular capture, and Hannah August's analysis of the surprising sensory stimulation provoked by an early modern species of prosthetic perception: the practice of reading printed plays.
A Cultural History of the Senses in the Renaissance, edited by Herman Roodenburg, is the third volume in Bloomsbury's Cultural History of the Senses series. In many respects, its procedures and goals resemble those of the volume just described. Like all the volumes in the Bloomsbury series, it benefits and to a certain degree suffers from the series' strict organizational scheme, with nine recurring topics in each volume highlighting a specific discipline or topical inquiry (for example, "The Social Life of the Senses," "The Senses in the Marketplace," "Medicine in the Senses," "The Senses in Art," and so forth). Mainstream procedures of social history, intellectual history, and art history dominate. The essays typically conjure the telling anecdote or exemplary image to give ballast and point to the unfolding panorama effect that otherwise informs each essay as well as the volume's cumulative design. Many of the essays are lavishly illustrated; all are written with elegance and an attentive eye to the volume's potential dual readership, nonspecialists as well as specialists. The collective accomplishment is no small feat, and the result is deeply pleasurable to read while evincing somewhat less of the critical ferment on display in some of the year's other studies in adjacent areas. I suspect it will prove a much-appreciated resource in advanced survey courses of the era.
The fourth publication in this group arrives from a different part of the galaxy of early modern sensory studies. Affect theory has become such a highly trafficked zone of inquiry and debate in the profession at large, in part because of its prestige as a critical solvent of late modern neoliberal thought, that it is perhaps surprising to note that the essay collection edited by Amanda Bailey and Mario DiGangi, Affect Theory and Early Modern Texts: Politics, Ecologies, and Form, appears to be the first essay collection representing the intersection of contemporary affect theory and early modern cultural studies. The volume boasts many assets. The introductory essay is a model of its kind, with a concise [End Page 245] overview of affect theory's critical procedures and goals, followed by a lucid summary of affect theory's critical purchase in three areas of inquiry: "Embodying the Political," "Affective Ecologies and Environments," and "Affective Form." As the editors point out, one of the volume's aims is to suggest how materials from the early modern archive, precisely because of their recalcitrance to modern reading habits, may open up new regions of inquiry in affect theory. The essays' uniformly high standard of critical nuance and gratifying readability largely realizes that goal, due in no small part to the editors' canny sequencing of essays across the book's conceptual divisions. The cumulative effect of reading Benedict S. Robinson's "Thinking Feeling" and Joseph Campana's "Crocodile Tears: Affective Fallacies Old and New" (in part 2) in the context of Patricia Cahill's "The Feel of the Slaughterhouse: Affective Temporalities and Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris" (the opening essay in part 3) powerfully demonstrates how early modern textualities may enlarge understanding of the historicity and speculative undertow of the stirrings and actions of affect, emotion, and feeling.
The transformative legacy of postcolonial energies in early modern studies continued to make itself felt in 2017, with four studies covering a broad spectrum of critical interests. Jerry Brotton's This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World tacitly aims at a general readership in the mode of popular history that Barbara Tuchman made famous several decades ago. While the book's core insight—attending to the weave of commercial, political, diplomatic, and cultural contact zones between Elizabethan England and Islamic regions and empires that complicates the stereotype of Western Islamophobia—will not surprise readers conversant with familiar debates in the field, Brotton's deft orchestration of multiple stories of intercultural adventure makes for engaging reading. It does not advance insights from recent work on the topic by postcolonial literary scholars, but the sheer fact of a book of this type speaks to the widening perception of the unsettled cultural purchase of the Turk and the Islamic world in Elizabethan England. It should hold a useful place in survey courses of the period, where its clear rendering of transhemispheric negotiations may well prove a useful pedagogical resource.
In vivid counterpoint to Brotton's study, Bernadette Andrea's The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern [End Page 246] British Literature and Culture, an important contribution to Global Renaissance Studies, unfolds a theoretically sophisticated and absorbing account of the spectral resonances in the literary archive of the lives of girls and women—"gendered subalterns" (p.3)—from Dar al-Islam ("the Islamic world") who traveled to England under varying conditions of consent. Andrea's interrogations of the tacit dimensions of archival evidence imaginatively marshal seminal concepts of Carlo Ginzburg, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, and Edward Said, respectively, to produce "micro," "connected," and "contrapuntal" (p. 4) historiographies of subaltern women—such as Elen More, who was brought to the Court of James IV of Scotland at the turn of the sixteenth century and whose unusual celebrity informed Jonson's Masque of Blackness for the Stuart Court several decades later, and the Nogay Tatar girl known as "Ipolita the Tartarian," who was gifted to Elizabeth I and whose status as an ornamental semaphore of imperial conquest in Elizabeth's Court precipitated her unusual virtual career as an allusive figure of transcultural volatility (Tatar/Persian/Indian/Moorish) and harbinger of a polycentric world beyond the reach of the Elizabethan rhetoric of political and cultural sovereignty. Andrea's chapter on the gendered East/West axis of cross-cultural engagement in Wroth's The Countess of Montgomeries Urania (both the first and second parts) admirably captures the author's handling of the procedures of prose romance to register unstable perceptions of the erasures needed to promote England's fantasy of European Christian (and masculine) hegemony on a global scale.
If Andrea's book reminds us of the continued value of reading for the erasures and blind spots in the literary archive, Islam Issa's Milton in the Arab-Muslim World invites us to consider what lies behind a conspicuous blind spot in reception studies of Milton: Middle Eastern perspectives and reading habits. While comparable ground has been gained in recent Shakespeare reception studies, the lacuna in Milton studies is even more striking given the established place of the Adam and Eve story in Islamic tradition and the fact that "Milton is taught as part of the English literary canon in the Middle East" (p. 10). Issa's study goes a long way toward filling the lacuna and will likely become a reference for future cross-cultural studies of Milton reception history. The book's careful design includes an overview of Milton reception in the Arab world (specifically, the orthodox Sunni Muslim population of Egypt); a survey of Arabic commentaries on Milton's works; a nuanced analysis of the textual, philological, and cultural issues at stake in dominant translations of Milton's works into Arabic; [End Page 247] and detailed discussions of the ways in which the concert of key figures, divine and human, in Paradise Lost speaks to points of resemblance and potentially productive friction between assumptions held in mainstream (Western) Milton scholarship and Islamic creed and Arab-Muslim culture. Issa effectively situates Milton as terrain in which to appreciate the cross-pollination of reception studies, translation studies, and comparative studies, with an attentive eye to the informing circumstances of sociopolitical contexts and religiocultural habits of thought. The book well earns its claim to treat the modern history of Milton studies as an occasion to consider the operation and attendant ironies of "periphery neglect," Issa's useful term for the casual yet pervasive assumption that "periphery readers" have nothing substantive to add to the knowledge base presumed of "mainstream readers," even where the periphery includes Arab-Muslim readers whose sociopolitical investment and religiocultural beliefs may be closer to the provocation of Milton's intuitions and concerns than the mainstream perspective ("occidental, monolingual, and increasingly secular") may be able to admit (p. 17).
Cassander L. Smith addresses a different range of transhemispheric literary and geopolitical concerns in Black Africans in the British Imagination: English Narratives of the Early Atlantic World, and does so with refreshing clarity of vision and argument. One of the challenges that critical race studies shares with nearly every field in early modern scholarship is that the methodological and theoretical equipment driving some of the discipline's most powerful interventions has also cultivated a habit of hermetic inspeak that sometimes works against the communicative ideal of engaged criticism. Not so here. Smith's bracing and lucid study constructs an assemblage of expedition narratives chronicling English voyages to West Africa, the Caribbean, Panama, and New Spain, and ranging from Sir William Towerson's travels to Guinea in the 1550s to Richard Ligon's expedition to Barbados a century later. Like much of the best work in recent critical race studies and gender and sexuality studies, Smith's study is in part a canny recovery project, aimed not at disclosing a transparent view of a lost historical subject but rather at marshaling the resources of narrative analysis and contextualized speculation to track the often-oblique force of mediation through which black African representations appear under refraction as narrative disruptions in English anti-Spanish propaganda. The nuance and precision of the readings make good on Smith's broader ambition to remind readers of how the unruly range and tactics of [End Page 248] mediation documented in the expedition genre demonstrate the continued utility of the notion of authorship, precisely for what it yields as testimony to collaborative agency under conditions of forced complicity.
Finally, John Anthony Butler has produced the first modern edition of Sir Paul Rycaut's The Present State of the Ottoman Empire: Sixth Edition, 1686. A touchstone document in the history of early modern Western perceptions of the Ottoman Empire, Rycaut's treatise perhaps lacks the stylistic verve of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whose Turkish Embassy Letters (1716–18) provide firsthand knowledge of seraglio and domestic cultures that Rycaut's male privilege could not access. Nonetheless, the range of Rycaut's social and political intelligence together with his diplomatic experience account easily for the book's reputation as the "standard reference work for anyone who wanted to know or write about the Ottoman Empire" (p. 105). As Butler's learned introduction and meticulous editorial apparatus make clear, Rycaut's depiction of Turkish society "did a great deal towards moderating the prejudices and ignorance which had coloured the western view of the east for so long" (p. 111).
TOPICAL GENRE STUDIES
Many of the year's most rewarding publications add telling nuances to a familiar gesture in early modern studies—the turn to classical and medieval legacies. A surprising number of books turn to questions of endings or limits, often opening stunning vistas in canonical material. Space not allowing extended reflections on the wealth of work, I limit myself to broad brushstrokes. The seven titles I received that reimagine early modern turns toward classical or medieval antecedents present a gratifying picture of the untapped resources in this mode of approach. Leah Whittington's Renaissance Suppliants: Poetry, Antiquity, Reconciliation presents a compelling picture of how to reread cultural and literary history from the perspective of a single ritualized gesture, the trope of supplication, which in Whittington's account turns out to be a "social practice and literary event that is at once ancient and modern, outside of temporality and historically specific" (p. 12). Whittington's subtle readings of the history of the trope and its generic permutations, from Virgil to Milton, trace the shifting ethical and political ramifications of supplication by pointing up the dramatic volatility of intimate contact between power and vulnerability. Cynthia N. Nazarian's Love's Wounds: Violence and the [End Page 249] Politics of Poetry in Early Modern Europe offers a tightly focused argument that touches on matters closely related to Whittington's and develops a line of argument on the gendered politics of vulnerability found in recent work by Valerie Traub and Melissa Sanchez among others. Nazarian examines the political potency lodged in Petrarchism's fascination with the relation between abjection and subjection and shows how sixteenth-century lyric sequences tactically deploy "the poet's suffering but enduring voice" to produce "a privileged site for resistance and agency"—a suggestive "countersovereign" gesture (p. 3). For Nazarian, countersovereignty has a specifically lyric base, but operates like a free radical, complicating or raising the political stakes in other genres into which it migrates. The comparatist range of Nazarian's study, which moves from Petrarch's Canzoniere to the Petrarchist experiments of Maurice Scève, Joachim Du Bellay, Théodore-Agrippa d'Aubigné, to Spenser and Shakespeare, effectively conveys the range of critical intent in the imitative ethos.
Danila Sokolov's Renaissance Texts, Medieval Subjectivities: Rethinking Petrarchan Desire from Wyatt to Shakespeare undertakes an archaeology of discursive memory by developing a supple methodology drawn in part from Bakhtin's notion of speech genres and more recent theorizing by Latour and Michel Serres on the "polychronicity and multitemporality" of human objects and actions (p. 13). Applying this lens to the Petrarchan archive, Sokolov discloses the iridescent admixture of "languages of subjectivity practiced by English medieval poets" within the "configurations of Petrarchan desire and selfhood" in English Petrarchan poetry (p. 12). The book complicates received understanding of the generic specificity of early modern English Petrarchism and persuasively shows how "medieval imaginative energies are found even at the heart of Renaissance literary culture" (p. 278).
Raphael Lyne's Memory and Intertextuality in Renaissance Literature offers a well-researched and lucid study that puts recent work in cognitive science on memory in conversation with early modern poetry's textual handling of contemporary assumptions about the complex relationship between the operation of memory and the experience of remembering, the goal being to provide more precise understanding of how the intertextual character of early modern poems (by Thomas Wyatt, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Milton) fosters "probing, sharp-edged examinations of how things are retained or forgotten, and what means there are of navigating memories" (p. 16). Lyne's finely judged analyses point up the fully collaborative shape and movement of memory in [End Page 250] view of its intersecting dimensions—the author's memory, the poem's memory, the reader's memory, and the surrounding field of "critical or cultural memory" (p. 13). Lyne's attunement to early modern poets' handling of the distinction between implicit and explicit memory as means to examine "the relationship between unintentional intertextuality and intentional allusion" (p. 14) is particularly noteworthy.
Andrew Hui's The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature challenges the popular notion, eloquently voiced by Thomas M. Greene in The Light in Troy, that early modern writers' fascination with ruins expressed a morbid response to "cultural devastation" (p. 20). Hui's corrective gesture derives from a striking conceptual and methodological insight: philology and the study of ruins are "fundamentally concerned with the figure of synecdoche" (p. 11) and consequently both operations share a deep investment not in dispersal and fragmentation but rather in "the healing of linguistic and cultural rupture" (p. 12). Hui's emphasis on the poetics of ruins enables a thoroughgoing recalibration of ruins' cultural significance, emphasizing their future-bound capacity to generate "fluid multiplicity rather than fixed monumentalization as a survival strategy in the classical tradition" (p. 3). The book's suave design follows the course of three words (vestigia, cendre, and moniment) that constellate as "word clouds" for Petrarch, Du Bellay, and Spenser in their poetic ruminations over the supple dynamic of loss and promise in cultural transmission. This is a deeply learned and beautiful book.
Cultural Reformations: Medieval and Renaissance in Literary History, edited by Brian Cummings and James Simpson, is an ambitious volume aimed at providing signposts of the now widespread scholarly investment in complicating and "redrawing the historical boundaries" between medieval and Renaissance modes of thinking. Each of the commissioned essays considers a topic that has come to be identified as a "site of cultural change" (p. 2)—see, for example, Margreta de Grazia on "Anachronism," Thomas Betteridge on "Vernacular Theology," Julia Boffey on "London Books and London Readers," and James Kearney on "Idleness." With thirty-three essays, the canvas is quite large and has the feel of an eclectic gathering, though the division of material into nine distinctive sections (e.g., "Spatialities," "Doctrines," "Labour," and so forth) lends coherence to the survey. Best of all, the essays marry precision with a panoramic sense of the chosen topic's contextual background. Intended for multiple readerships, the volume should hold great appeal to students and scholars seeking fresh perspectives on familiar topics. [End Page 251]
Medieval into Renaissance: Essays for Helen Cooper, edited by Andrew King and Matthew Woodcock, is aptly and lovingly dedicated to Helen Cooper, whose scholarship has complicated fixed notions of periodicity by emphasizing the dynamic operations of "continuity, inheritance, preservation, and memory" in the literary activity of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries (p. 6). The volume beautifully enacts the very gestures it attributes to the extended historical moment it revisits by further developing Cooper's sustained interest in resisting "neat or formulaic divisions of period" (p. 9). This very strong collection includes R. W. Maslen's striking reflections on "Armour that Doesn't Work: An Anti-Meme in Medieval and Renaissance Romance" and Nandini Das's imaginative itinerary through the cartographic imaginary involved in "Placing Arcadia."
The second subcategory in this section includes several wide-ranging studies oriented toward limit experiences, whether cognitive, moral, affective, or analytical. The first begins squarely with death. Inspired in part by Fernand Hallyn's Poetic Structure of the World, Judith H. Anderson's long-awaited Light and Death: Figuration in Spenser, Kepler, Donne, Milton offers an intellectually dazzling excursion into the deep cultural, poetic, and philosophical history of brooding over structural oppositions—paradigmatically, death and light—and shows how key episodes in that history supply primary matter for another, more fundamental history of analogical figuration, or proportion, which is "the connector of the known to the unknown, the sensible to the subsensible and infinite" (p. 5) in both literature and science. Anderson's eloquent inspections of the operation of analogy in Spenser, Donne, Johannes Kepler, and Milton demonstrate the extent to which early modern thinkers appreciated the co-implication of procedural and imaginative thought. The book inarguably earns it claim that "analogy remains a fundamental resource for poetic brooding across cultures—historical, geographical, and intellectual" (p. 226).
Katherine Eggert's Disknowledge: Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England breathes new life into a topic whose quirky fascination in early modern studies has foreclosed more nuanced ways of reading the specificities of its cultural potency. Alchemy's omnibus value in early modern culture as "shorthand for obfuscation, misguided learning, and outright scams" while retaining its generative associations made it the ideal choice, as Eggert brilliantly shows, for service as equipment in the era's deployment of what Eggert calls "disknowledge," [End Page 252] a mode of "choosing not to know what one knows" (pp. 3 and 6) as a way of coping with a perceived saturation point of knowledge practices and managing "epistemological risk" (p. 8). Alchemy thus becomes a kind of master trope of accommodation through which early modern writers were able to imagine shapes of intimacy with emerging forms of knowledge—ones that spelled the waning of humanist culture's prestige—precisely by imagining the affective and cognitive appeals of obsolescent forms. The book ingeniously brings together four sites where alchemy takes hold as an accommodating and neutralizing agent: the persistent matter theory underlying Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation in reformist thought and devotional poetry, the latent Semitophobia coursing through late-humanist appropriations of Kabbalah, the whiplash effects of the era's contrasting purviews of the female reproductive system, and poetry's new lease on life procured through Sidney's canny metaphor of poetry's alchemical soul in the Defense of Poetry. Eggert's analysis convincingly shows how the alchemical expressions of disknowledge may indeed "model for modernity a kind of nimble epistemological and literary inventiveness" (p. 13) that imagines how looking backward may sometimes be the best way to move forward, but not without risk.
Corey McEleney's Futile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility is a breathtaking, bold, and refreshing work, and a clear candidate for inclusion in the queer studies category, but I include it here for its broader implications. Vigorously swimming upstream against the current of historicist and materialist scholarship, McEleney persuasively shows how the affinities between deconstructive and queer theories may be treated as "symptomatic reconfigurations of the ambivalences that early modern writers themselves struggled with" (p. 8) and, in alliance with a commitment to slow reading, afford a much more supple and generous understanding of early modern writers' specific negotiations with the pleasures of futility, in "literary play, errancy, and vanity" (p. 7), as against the implicit rewards of utility and teleology (this is McEleney's declared line in the sand). The book's lucid introductory exposition of early modern social standards of utility is followed by literary case studies showing different gauges of the cost-benefit analysis of pleasure vs. profit in Shakespeare's Richard II, Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller, Spenser's Legend of Courtesy in The Faerie Queene, and Milton's Paradise Lost. The clear and compelling gesture of McEleney's argument is that the contemporary humanities discipline, in facing its challenges, could well benefit from pausing to consider the lesson found in [End Page 253] these pages, that the relation between pleasure and utility is not a zero-sum game.
I might have placed Catherine Bates's On Not Defending Poetry: Defence and Indefensibility in Sidney's "Defence of Poesy" in the "Individual Authors" category (hers is the sole title I received in Sidney studies), but Bates's book provides such a compelling foil and complement to McEleney's argument that I include it here. Approaching a single text—Sidney's Defence of Poesy—from a deconstructive-Marxist rather than frontally queer-deconstructive perspective, Bates shares with McEleney the determination to turn away from the constrictive grasp of the profit motive in literary and aesthetic production and consider lost or suppressed values associated with various expressions of futility. Extending the observations of Marc Shell and Jean-Joseph Goux in the new economic criticism, Bates mounts a counterintuitive but ultimately convincing argument for the essentially "de-idealist" ethos of Sidney's poetics. For Bates, Sidney's intuitive grasp of the perilous complicity of idealist thought with the notion of "bankable" value (p. ix) introduced by the money form led him to produce, in the Defence, a wittily serious model of poetry that "could only be described as indefensible (profitless, masochistic, perverse)," thereby recasting poetry's "courtly" associations with "everything the bourgeois ethic of growth, productivity, and functionality is not" (p. ix). Deeply learned, this book strips away encrusted habits of thought that have dulled the critical spark of Sidney's treatise, and it also shows how Sidney's argument asks exactly the right question in addressing contemporary concerns over the value of the humanities, by suggesting that "to ask 'what is the value of the humanities?' is to ask the wrong question, or to ask a leading question the answer to which is a given when a certain economic mindset is presupposed" (p. x). Bates has produced an indispensable book.
Three books share an interest in demarcating new orientations to well-traveled poetic and aesthetic concepts: the sublime, literary personification, and allegory. Joel Elliot Slotkin's Sinister Aesthetics: The Appeal of Evil in Early Modern English Literature unpacks the secret history of a "sinister aesthetics" (p. 8) that delicately mediates between Christian religious sensibilities and aesthetic sensibilities in early modern poetry as a means of imbricating pleasure, horror, and instruction. Andrew Escobedo's Volition's Face: Personification and the Will in Renaissance Literature powerfully opens up a new perspective on the relation between prosopopoeia and human agency by showing how literary personification [End Page 254] is best understood "not as a derivation of personhood" but rather as an expression of "trajectories of volitional energies that have taken on a life of their own" (pp. 3 and 4). Escobedo's detailed case studies—conscience, despair, love, and sin—point up the early modern literary canon's acute sense that the roving energies of will do not so much express an executive self as a philosophically and morally charged condition of alienation at the heart of personhood. Jason Crawford's Allegory and Enchantment: An Early Modern Poetics offers a robust and penetrating account of the vexed history of allegory from antiquity through touchstone allegorical texts in early modernity by positing the form as an essentially agonistic and presciently modern procedure for mediating conflicting intuitions of revolutionary disenchantment and eschatological hope (this is where the sense of limit-experience comes into view). Scholarship on allegorical poetics is of course a crowded field, but Crawford's careful attention to the microdynamics of canonical allegorical narratives—beginning with an account of allegory's twin genealogies, Platonic and Christological, then proceeding seriatim through William Langland's Piers Plowman, John Skelton's The Bowge of Courte, Spenser's The Faerie Queene (book 1), and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress—makes good on the book's claim that the "agonistic reflexivity of allegory—its restlessness of movement and form—helps to reveal disenchantment itself as an agonistic negotiation … in tension with an agonistic pull toward re-enchantment that might well be part of disenchantment's core structure" (p. 40).
The next three volumes bring a closing flourish to this sub-category. Taken as an ensemble, the titles could easily build the framework for a course designed to show how materialist and cross-generic methodologies examine the exigencies and sometimes strange power and eloquence of diseased bodies in early modern culture. Together, Kathleen Miller's The Literary Culture of Plague in Early Modern England, David Thorley's Writing Illness and Identity in Seventeenth-Century Britain, and Eleanor Decamp's Civic and Medical Worlds in Early Modern England: Performing Barbery and Surgery demonstrate vital cross-currents of thought and practice in observing procedures of generic filtering and discursive epidemiology in early modern plague cultures (Miller), admixtures of sound studies and performance studies that track the uneasy alliance of barbers and surgeons in early modern England (Decamp), and the affordances of life-writing genres in the era as coping mechanisms in illness (Thorley). [End Page 255]
Finally, I received several books that constitute more of an ad hoc assemblage than a unit, though each brings valuable new material to the topics they address, whether in genre studies or book history. Andrea Walkden's Private Lives Made Public: The Invention of Biography in Early Modern England brilliantly cuts against the grain of much recent work in the field of early modern life-writing by bracketing both the methodologies and ideological goals of the field, which aim to reclaim marginalized voices and capture "the diversity of forms and venues in which life stories were staged in the pre-modern period" (p. 21). Bracketing is perhaps a misnomer, because Walkden's study enlarges the terrain of diversity in life-writing by examining the double-coding in many of the bestselling printed biographies that undoubtedly speak to "class-bound and masculinized canons of greatness" (p. 22) but also invent a strain of biographical writing that "served as a proxy political discourse" (p. 7), by demonstrating heuristic habits of mind at one remove from controversialist argument. As Walkden's study shows, such habits were consequential without being interventionist, in the sense that they reoriented "the public sphere in the direction of a perennial populism based not upon argument but upon a kind of infallible, straightforward sense of what is true" (pp. 25–6). The implicit polemic in this species of biographical narrative turned on the works' varied tactics of conjuring "a world that is socially cohesive, bound together by the mutually dependent relations of custom and affection, community and companionship" (p. 162), and amenable to "partisan and illiberal ends" (p. 165). In chapters ranging from a close inspection of Milton's critiques of Eikon Basi-like to the skewering of biographical populism's regressive traits in Daniel Defoe's fictionalized biographies (notably his Memoirs of a Cavalier), this book interestingly demonstrates how a popular early modern genre cultivated an ingratiating narrative program of misrecognition—in effect, a biographical pharmakon.
Seventeenth-Century Fiction: Text and Transmission, edited by Jacqueline Glomski and Isabelle Moreau, is a welcome addition to scholarship exploring the cross-pollination of genres in seventeenth-century prose fictions as a dynamic process of "literary transmission and cultural exchange" (p. 16), one that bears little relation to the emergence decades ago of the dubious rectilinear "rise of the novel" mythos. The considerable range of topics and literary cultures assembled here vividly expresses the editors' contention that "prose fiction is better understood when considered as a trans-European phenomenon" (p. 1). [End Page 256]
The Book in History, The Book as History: New Intersections of the Material Text: Essays in Honor of David Scott Kastan, edited by Heidi Brayman, Jesse M. Lander, and Zachary Lesser, offers a wide-ranging, lavishly illustrated, and thankfully nondogmatic perspective on the current state of materialist approaches to book history and the conjectural relationships between textual data, their originating environments, and transhistorical reach. The thirteen essays collectively demonstrate how attention to materiality's gestural (as opposed to epistemological) cast opens up an expansive and transtemporal sense of locality. Where else could one find, in one volume, an essay (Alan B. Farmer's) that uses large-scale quantitative methods to assess the question of early modern playbooks' ephemerality, and an essay (by Adam G. Hooks) that urges us to consider the interesting connection between the festival atmosphere at Stratford-upon-Avon and Bayreuth, the cultic home of Richard Wagner's epic Ring cycle?
Dublin: Renaissance City of Literature, edited by Kathleen Miller and Crawford Gribben, brings a salutary perspective to a marginalized topic—the nature and scope of a literary Renaissance in early modern Dublin. This very appealing volume is notable for its broad historical scope (ranging from the early fifteen-century Memoriale by the Dublin-born notary and legal scribe James Yonge to Anglo-Irish writing for the stage in Restoration Dublin) and the breadth of topics it addresses, including the development of local print culture, the construction of "Dublin literary identities" (p. 1), and the influence of Anglo-Irish and non-Anglophone forces. Spenserians will find much of interest in Andrew Hadfield's essay on "Edmund Spenser's Dublin," and among the other fine essays in the volume I would single out Mícheál Mac Craith's informative treatment of the Gaelic bilingual poets' symbiosis between Elizabethan English and Gaelic love poetry.
INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS: STUDIES AND EDITIONS
The sole contribution I received in Thomas More studies is a welcome revised edition of a canonical text. The well-regarded 1989 edition of More's Utopia, edited by George M. Logan and translated by Robert M. Adams for Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, has now appeared in a fresh iteration of the revised 2002 edition, with an updated introduction, footnotes, and suggestions for further reading. It remains a standard reference for classroom use. [End Page 257]
"A Mirror for Magistrates" in Context: Literature, History, and Politics in Early Modern England, edited by Harriet Archer and Hadfield, performs a real service to the profession in that the large and unwieldy assemblage compiled initially by William Baldwin is legendarily known but perhaps not as widely read or even browsed through as it should be, given its historical, aesthetic, and literary significance. The wide-ranging essays fulfill the editors' promise to show the Mirror's interventions and discursive signatures "at all stages of its history, and to read its various iterations in their contexts" (p. 9). Surprisingly, this is the first essay collection on the Mirror, and it should count as essential reading.
Volume 21 in the Modern Humanities Research Association's Tudor and Stuart Translations series, George Chapman's Homer's "Odyssey," edited by Gordon Kendal, performs an inestimable service by giving students and scholars an easily readable text of Chapman's landmark 1616 translation of the Odyssey, with modernized spelling and punctuation and a helpful marginal glossary as well as a very fine introductory essay that places Chapman's achievement in its literary and cultural context. Volume 12 in the same series, Arthur Golding's "A Moral Fabletalk" and Other Renaissance Fable Translations, edited by Liza Blake and Kathryn Vomero Santos, exhibits the same virtues as Kendal's edition. The editors' inclusion of a variety of Aesopian fables from the late fifteenth through the mid-seventeenth century, together with good reproductions of contemporary engravings and woodcuts, beautifully demonstrates the malleability of the genre.
Two valuable contributions to Spenser studies appeared this year. The brilliant stroke of Edmund Spenser in Context, edited by Escobedo, is to devise a kaleidoscopic array of topics that speaks to the multiple contexts and viewing angles informing Spenser's life, poetic career, and reception across the spectrum of methodologies and topics in Spenser studies. The book's overarching categories—"Spenser's Environment," "Genre and Craft," and "Influences and Analogues"—lend focus and shape to the abundance of thoughtful and informative work gathered here by thirty-seven eminent scholars. The volume should prove a significant reference for students and seasoned Spenserians alike. Rachel E. Hile's Spenserian Satire: A Tradition of Indirection offers an important theoretical framework and textually detailed account of an overlooked genre in the history of satire: "indirect satire," which deploys highly inventive tactics of "obfuscation and deniability" to address sensitive political topics within the constraints of contemporary censorship conditions (p. 174). As Hile demonstrates, [End Page 258] the genre's referential dexterity contributed ironically to its virtual invisibility in subsequent scholarship, where "the rather blunt categories" of Juvenalian, Horatian, and Menippean satire have distracted attention from the ferment of critical experimentation in indirect satire during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Hile's close readings of Spenser's contributions to the genre, most notably in Prosopopoia: or, Mother Hubberd's Tale and Muiopotmos, together with the interesting analyses of Spenser's influence as an indirect satirist on Thomas Middleton, Michael Drayton, and George Wither, make a strong case for the genre's discreet yet pointed appropriation of "allegorical projection" to produce politically engaged poetry (p. 175).
The three remaining titles I received in Shakespeare studies cover distinct areas, and each makes a superb contribution to the field. Cyndia Susan Clegg's Shakespeare's Reading Audiences: Early Modern Books and Audience Interpretation ably demonstrates how much can be learned about the contemporary reception of Shakespeare's plays by identifying different "reading clusters" inferred from circulation patterns of printed books and manuscripts that suggest associative links or "thematic parallels" (p. 19) with various works. Chapter 2, for example, considers how Shakespeare's sonnets would likely have been read by literary coteries steeped in Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier. The book's interesting design moves from relatively small and often elite reading clusters to broadly extended reading clusters that speak to a "nascent public sphere" (p. 19). In the latter case, Clegg's account of how the Essex rebellion became the primary interpretive lens for understanding the import of Richard II trains the eye to consider how the sense of a text's topical urgency may not fall exactly where tradition has taught us to look for it. Clegg sensibly makes no claim to present an exhaustive account of the interfaces of reading clusters and Shakespeare's contemporary reception; rather, the generous sample of perspectives affords a plausible image of the heterogeneity of reading habits and reflexes in the period.
The Sonnets: The State of Play, edited by Hannah Crawforth, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, and Clare Whitehead for the Arden Shakespeare State of Play series, is an exemplary volume, ideal for classroom use and filled with suggestive pointers toward new directions in scholarship on the sonnets by a well-balanced assembly of leading scholars. The volume's subtitle could not be more apt, in that the essays collectively exhibit both the "state" of methodologies in circulation and the "play" therein that finds [End Page 259] new ways of navigating the literary corpus. The editors' lucid introduction is ideally paired with Heather Dubrow's afterword, which points up the individual and collective merits of the contributions with laser-like precision.
The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy, edited by Michael Neill and David Schalkwyk, is the last of the ocean-liner sized essay collections that reached my desk. The fifty-four essays, by leading scholars, show impressive range and offer fresh perspectives in several areas of Shakespeare studies, from familiar topics such as "Genre," "Textual Issues," and "Stage and Screen" to the richly informative final sections on the reception of the tragedies in Europe and the global arena. This collection is an invaluable tool for Shakespeare scholars and graduate students.
I received three volumes in Donne studies; each is a magnificent contribution to the field. David Marno's Death Be Not Proud: The Art of Holy Attention presents an original, phenomenologically oriented approach to Donne's devotional poetry that is inspired by a thought experiment of Nicholas Malebranche at the end of the early modern era, the idea that "attention is a hidden connection between religion and philosophy" and that attention achieves fluency in both regions "because it admits the limitations of agency in the production of thought without abandoning the practice of thinking" (p. 2). Apart from an interlude devoted to Claudius's famously distracted prayer in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Marno's study focuses on the wealth of late antique, medieval, and early modern discussions of devotional attention that inform the atmosphere and texture of Donne's experiments in incarnating poetic structures of attention and distraction in the Holy Sonnets. More broadly, Marno's sustained examination of the craft of devotional attention in Donne's poetry brilliantly shows how what survives as textual tissue in the poems is a largely forgotten sense of attention as a philosophically attuned, passive disposition that is "necessary to start thinking" (p. 227), rather than a proactive psychological function. As Marno points out, this specific sense was available to Donne, Descartes, and Malebranche in ways it was not for later thinkers such as John Locke and the Abbé de Condillac; Marno's beautifully shaped argument demonstrates the process through which the religious ideal of devotional attention—essentially, the art of withholding judgment—migrated and then dissolved into the secularized regime of modern philosophical inquiry. In addition to Marno's magnificent study, two major critical editions of Donne's works reached my desk. The twelfth volume in The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne [End Page 260] provides meticulous apparatus for the Sermons Preached at St. Paul's Cathedral, 1626, expertly edited by Mary Ann Lund; and The Satyres, the third volume of The Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne, provides finely gauged commentary and an expansive digest of criticism on the poems.
The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne, edited by Philippe Desan, approaches its topic by acknowledging Montaigne's contemporary vedette status in the era of globalization, in part because of his popularization in recent works by Sarah Bakewell and Antoine Compagnon, and also because his reputation as a paragon of the "search for wisdom" (p. 4) seems of a piece with the cafeteria-styled tastes his writings exhibit—Catholic, secular, Stoic, Epicurean, whatever—and, crucially, his seemingly self-sufficient "hypersubjectivity confronted with a globalized, but unstable, world" (p. 12). This volume takes seriously the challenge to confront Montaigne's corpus of writings and his legacy in view of the astonishing fact that "Montaigne is accessible today in more than 40 languages" (p. 12). To this end, Desan sensibly divides the volume into three parts: "Historical Montaigne," "Reception of Montaigne," and "Modern and Global Montaigne." The scope of the third category is enthralling, ranging from topics such as "Montaigne on Style" (Kathy Eden) to "Montaigne on Violence" (Cynthia Nazarian) and "Montaigne on Curiosity" (Zahi Zalloua).
Rahel Orgis's Narrative Structure and Reader Formation in Lady Mary Wroth's "Urania" marks a milestone on two fronts. It sets up an inductive narratological procedure for appreciating Wroth's experimental design in the complex discursive terrain of Urania and thereby makes significant advances over classical narratological theory (Gérard Genette, et al.) as equipment for reading early modern prose romances. Orgis's careful attention to the interplay between narrative levels and strands and geographic mappings of "travel patterns" (p. 10) in Urania provides readers with an enormously helpful way to understand the narrative tactics underpinning Wroth's brand of romance-inflected cosmopolitanism.
Milton studies enjoyed a robust year, with four rewarding publications in addition to Chapman's The Legal Epic and Issa's Milton in the Arab-Muslim World, discussed above. David Williams's Milton's Leveller God beautifully complements Chapman's work by advancing a powerful corrective to the assumption that Milton's thought and poetic practice was not significantly shaped by the populist, progressive, and hopeful political thought of the Levellers. Williams shows how John Foxe's Acts and Monuments [End Page 261] supplied Milton with "the definitive print model of how readers can be gathered—in their own acts of 'labourious gathering'—into a 'Leveller' community of equals" (p. 28). Williams's careful readings of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained discern a "Leveller signature" that counteracts perceptions of the poet's alleged drift toward an "aristocratic turn" and political pessimism (p. 24). Catherine Gimelli Martin's Milton's Italy: Anglo-Italian Literature, Travel, and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England undertakes an ambitious program to revitalize critical interest in the Italian sources of Milton's thought in both religious and political spheres as well as his poetics. The book begins with a well-considered critique of the alleged waning prestige of Italy in seventeenth-century English literate culture (the "myth of Italy," p. 12), proceeding through distinct areas of Milton's immersive contact with important Italian influences, including Tridentine documents, Neo-Platonic writings, Niccolò Machiavelli, Dante and Petrarch, and the musical innovations of Claudio Monteverdi. Martin's detailed itinerary carefully traces the assimilative energies that produced what John Steadman called Milton's apt title as the "Italianate Englishman" (p. 15).
With Wandering Steps: Generative Ambiguity in Milton's Poetics, edited by Mary C. Fenton and Louis Schwartz, offers a philosophically suggestive middle way between two polar views of Milton: the monistic ideologue for whom difference is a ruse, and the poet gripped by "uncertainties and indeterminations" (p. x). The nine essays gathered in this elegantly conceived volume depict the arabesques of Milton's thought as it balances synthetic aspirations with centrifugal energies: "'determinations' (neither indeterminate nor terminating)" that prove "generative and productive of meaning" (p. xii). The volume affords much pleasurable reading. Milton, Materialism, and Embodiment: One First Matter All, edited by Kevin J. Donovan and Thomas Festa, brings together eight brilliantly conceived essays by established and emerging Milton scholars to enlarge critical understanding of the complex circuitry of monist materialism in Milton's thought. The volume's organic design moves from discussions of the sometimes oblique but penetrating relation between Milton's monism and his depiction of embodiment and the senses to discussions of the poetic and ethical entailment of human and angelic embodied thought and finally, with a transatlantic gesture, to discussions of Milton's materialism in America. Beginning with Lauren Shohet's absorbing discussion of scent in Paradise Lost and closing with David A. Harper's riveting analysis of the recent appropriation of [End Page 262] Areopagitica by a gun activist who "cited Milton's tract in defense of his disseminating 'free, downloadable plans for [a] print-at-home gun'" (pp. 14–5), the range of issues treated in the volume's compact scope is uniquely memorable.
Milton in the Long Restoration, edited by Blair Hoxby and Ann Baynes Coiro, is another of the year's essay volumes endowed with ocean-liner magnitude, making it impossible to do justice to the wealth of discerning argument found in the twenty-nine essays bringing together new work by important Miltonists and scholars of the Restoration and eighteenth century. The hardcover price may also make it prohibitive for individual purchase, which is regrettable as this volume is an extraordinary achievement. As Hoxby points out in her concise introduction, the volume "situates Miltonists and eighteenth-centurists in the same orbit" (p. 4), bypassing a longstanding and problematic institutional divide and, crucially, showing how Milton's eighteenth-century readers—including John Dryden, Joseph Addison, Richard Bentley, and Alexander Pope, among others—appreciated key aspects of Milton's poetry and treatises that were lost on Romantic and twentieth-century readers, even as their collective practice also produced the "seedbed of modern criticism" (p. 3). This is an invaluable book.
John Leonard's The Value of Milton is a slim volume that wears its learning lightly. With disarming elegance, the book conveys the diversity of Milton's commitments and concerns by conducting a guided tour through Milton's career, beginning with the Areopagitica and moving through the minor poems and political prose to Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. Miltonists will appreciate the discernment guiding Leonard's emphases, while instructors and students should find this a very gratifying resource.
Finally, a trifecta of excellent literary biographies of early modern writers that deserve broad readership outside specialist corridors: Matthew Woodcock's Thomas Churchyard: Pen, Sword, and Ego, Kelsey Jackson Williams's The Antiquary: John Aubrey's Historical Scholarship, and James Pierce's The Life and Work of William Salesbury: A Rare Scholar are the first full-length biographies of their respective subjects. This feature is particularly notable in the case of Pierce's study, which brings to light the historical significance of Salesbury's work in promoting the Welsh language by compiling the first Welsh dictionary and serving as principal translator of the 1567 Welsh New Testament. [End Page 263]
MISCELLANEOUS ANTHOLOGIES AND CRITICAL EDITIONS
This year saw the publication of a number of valuable anthologies and critical editions of difficult-to-find materials. Fixing Babel: An Historical Anthology of Applied English Lexicography, edited by Rebecca Shapiro, offers an invaluable collection of the explanatory front matter written by dictionary authors from the early seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries. This unique collation, beautifully edited with instructive commentary, enables readers to grasp the shifting dynamic of descriptive and prescriptive elements used by lexicographers in documenting the ever-widening scope of English language use in the documented time frame. Three Sixteenth-Century Dietaries, edited by Joan Fitzpatrick, is a rewarding addition to the Revels Companion Library series. The volume includes meticulously edited texts of three popular food regimen manuals: Thomas Elyot's The Castle of Health, Andrew Boorde's A Compendious Regiment, or a Dietary of Health, and William Bullein's The Government of Health. Fitzpatrick's expert introduction provides a useful contextual framework for appreciating the insights these texts offer into connections between early modern attitudes toward food and diet and "ideas about the body, psychological well-being, and identity" (p. 4). The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology, edited by William E. Engel, Rory Loughnane, and Grant Williams offers a resource ideally suited for classroom use. Following the splendid introductory essay, the volume's intelligent selection of excerpts covers a wide range of materials, from memory arts and rhetorical manuals to treatments of memory in diverse genres, including teaching manuals, historical and political treatises, and literary works.
With the topic of memory now literally in hand, I cannot resist the temptation to reflect on the titles I received this year that seem to me front-running candidates for a desert-island reading list. Recalling their shared traits of groundbreaking scholarship, supple methodology, inventive argument, and alluring prose, I would not want to be without Jeffrey Masten's Queer Philologies, Christopher N. Warren's Literature and the Law of Nations, Lowell Duckert's For All Waters, Leah Whittington's Renaissance Suppliants, Catherine Bates's On Not Defending Poetry, and David Marno's Death Be Not Proud. That's just for starters. Even if a mirage, the visceral timeliness of such a gathering gives food for thought. [End Page 264]
Lowell Gallagher, Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, specializes in early modern English Catholic studies and queer and feminist approaches to literary biblical studies. His publications include Sodomscapes: Hospitality in the Flesh (2017), Medusa's Gaze: Casuistry and Conscience in the Renaissance (1991), and several edited volumes, including Redrawing the Map of Early Modern English Catholicism (2012) and, with Shankar Raman, Knowing Shakespeare: Senses, Embodiment and Cognition (2010).
1. Lynn Hunt, "History as Gesture; or, The Scandal of History," in Consequences of Theory, ed. Jonathan Arac and Barbara Johnson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1991), pp. 91–107, 103. [End Page 265]