'Conversation is the beginning and end of knowledge', wrote Stephano Guazzo in his Civil Conversation. Like Guazzo's, this is a book dedicated to the Renaissance concept of conversation, a concept that functioned simultaneously as a privileged literary and rhetorical form (the dialogue), an intellectual and artistic program (the humanists' interactions with ancient texts), and a political possibility (the king's council, or the republican concept of mixed government). In its varieties of knowledge production, the Renaissance was centrally concerned with debate and dialogue, not only among scholars, but also, and perhaps more importantly, among and with texts. Renaissance reading practices were active and engaged: such conversations with texts were meant to prepare the mind for political and civic life, and the political itself was conceived as fundamentally conversational. The humanist idea of conversation thus theorized the relationships among literature, politics, and history; it was one of the first modern attempts to locate cultural production within a specific historical and political context. The essays in this collection investigate the varied ways in which the Renaissance incorporated textual conversation and dialogue into its literary, political, juridical, religious, and social practices. They focus on the importance of conversation to early modern understandings of ethics; on literary history itself as an ongoing authorial conversation; and on the material and textual technologies that enabled early modern conversations.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction, Zachary Lesser and Benedict S. Robinson. Part 1 Conversational Ethics: The art of Conversazioni: practices in Renaissance rhetoric, Arthur F. Kinney; 'Defend his freedom 'gainst a monarchy': Marlowe's republican authorship, Patrick Cheney; 'Much more the better for being a little bad,' or gaining by relaxing: equity and paradox in Measure for Measure, Peter G. Platt. Part 2 Authors in Conversation: Allegory, irony, despair: Chaucer's Pardoner's and Franklin's Tales and Spenser's Faerie Queene, Books I and III, Judith H. Anderson; 'Les langues des hommes sont pleines de tromperies': Shakespeare, French poetry, and alien tongues, William J. Kennedy; Joining the conversation: David, Astrophil, and the Countess of Pembroke, Margaret P. Hannay. Part 3 Technologies of Conversation: The puzzling letters of Sister Elizabeth Sa[u]nder[s], Betty S. Travitsky; A civil conversation: letters and the edge of form, Roger Kuin; 'Made all of rusty yron, ranckling sore': The imprint of paternity in The Faerie Queene, Douglas A. Brooks. Bibliography; Index.
Zachary Lesser is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. Benedict S. Robinson is Assistant Professor of English at SUNY-Stony Brook, USA.
'A valuable collection of essays”learned and readable”on the conversations in Renaissance texts across temporal, geographical, cultural, and gender boundaries. These nine essays not only explore but also exemplify civil, generous conversation, and thus are a tribute to its value, particularly welcome in our own time when contention often threatens to drown out conversation.' Achsah Guibbory, Barnard College ’Readers will inevitably pick and choose when they take up this eclectic collection, but most will discover something that satisfies and edifies.’ Renaissance Quarterly