Renaissance Syntax and Subjectivity
Ideological Contents of Latin and the Vernacular in Scottish Prose Chronicles
The relationship between Latin and the Scots vernacular in the chronicle literature of 16th-century Scotland provides the topic for this study. John Leeds here shows how the disposition of grammatical subjects, in the radically dissimilar syntactic systems of humanist neo-Latin and Scots, conditions the way in which "the subject" (i.e., the human individual) and its actions are conceived in the writing of history. In doing so, he extends the boundaries of existing critical literature on early modern "subjectivity" to include the subject of grammar, analyzing its incorporation into narrative sentences and illuminating the ideological contents of different systems for its deployment. Though focused on the chronicles of Renaissance Scotland, the argument can in principle be applied to the entire range of Latin-vernacular relations during the early modern period. While examining the intellectual culture of early modernity, Leeds also takes aim, at every stage of his argument, at the semiotic and social-constructionist orthodoxies that dominate the humanities today. Against the notion that human subjects are "discursive constructs," he argues for the subordination of discourse to realities, both material and immaterial, that are external to language. As part of this argument, he proposes a view of neo-Latin humanism as a resistance to the onset of modernity, arguing that Latin prose provides options (at once syntactic, ideological, and ontological) that vernacular culture has, to its considerable detriment, foreclosed. In sum, Leeds advocates a renewed and theoretically-informed commitment to the humanism that the humanities themselves have been at such pains, during the last scholarly generation, to depreciate.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Sleeping beauty: accusative case, passive voice, and the subject of production; Against the vernacular: Ciceronian formalism and the problem of the individual; From the ground up: matter, spirit, and the linguistic sign in John Lesley's Chronicles of Stewart Scotland; Corpus Mysticum: the status of universals in John Mair's Chronicle of Greater Britain; Afterword; Bibliography; Index.
John Leeds is Associate Professor of English at Florida Atlantic University, Davie Campus, USA.
'Beginning with the ideological ramifications of grammatical passive subjectivity, Leeds moves to a consideration of how syntactic structure produces individuals that are sometimes unmediated individuals and sometimes not; then turns to how lexical concerns can be shown to militate against the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign. This is a brilliant project, brilliantly executed ... links philology and theory in a unique, highly original way.' Craig Kallendorf, Texas A&M University, USA 'This book is especially valuable for its inclusion of long passages from little-read Latin and Scots texts.' Neo-Latin News ’[Leeds is] an adept guide through the book’s philosophical and theoretical material, encompassing a wealth of knowledge with a lucid, conversational style that displays his deep involvement in pedagogy. Any reader is bound to learn from this penetrating, original study.’ Sixteenth Century Journal ’This book represents another milestone in the development of our understanding of a familiar and rich part of the cultural landscape of Scotland and Europe. The book represents a commendable and successful attempt to bring together the many emergent strands of scholarship on Renaissance Scotland and George Buchanan into a coherent whole - one which will in turn provide material for much of the work which still needs to be done on this man and the period and culture of which he is part.’ Scottish Literary Review