Words in the world: The place of literature in Early Modern England

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Title: Words in the world: The place of literature in Early Modern England
Author: Hanan, Rachel Ann, 1978-
Abstract: "Words in the World" details the ways that the place of rhetoric and literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries changes in response to the transition from natural philosophy to Cartesian mechanism. In so doing, it also offers a constructive challenge to today's environmental literary criticism, challenging environmental literary critics' preoccupation with themes of nature and, by extension, with representational language. Reading authors from Thomas More to Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson through changes in physics, cartography, botany, and zoology, "Words in the World" argues that literature occupies an increasingly separate place from the real world. "Place" in this context refers to spatiotemporal dimensions, taxonomic affiliations, and the relationships between literature and the physical world. George Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie (1589), for instance, limits the way that rhetoric is part of the world to the ways that it can be numbered (meter, rhyme scheme, and so forth); metaphor and other tropes, however, are duplicitous. In contrast, for an earlier era of natural philosophers, tropes were the grammar of the universe. "Words in the World" culminates with Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1621/1651), in which the product of literature's split from the physical world is literary melancholy. Turning to today's environmental literary criticism, the dissertation thus historicizes ecocriticism's nostalgic melancholy for the extratextual physical world. Indeed, Early Modern authors' inquiries into the place of literature and the relationships between that place and the physical world in terms of literary forms and structures, suggests the importance of ecoformalism to Early Modern scholarship. In particular, this dissertation argues that Early Modern authors treat literary structures as types of performative language. This dissertation revises the standard histories of Early Modern developments in rhetoric and of the literary text, and it provides new insight into the materiality of literary form.
Description: ix, 268 p. : ill. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/11156
Date: 2010-09

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