The Renaissance and the Postmodern
A Study in Comparative Critical Values
The Renaissance and the Postmodern reconsiders postmodern readings of Renaissance texts by engaging in a dialectics the authors call comparative critical values. Rather than concede the contemporary hierarchy of theory over literature, the book takes the novel approach of consulting major Renaissance writers about the values at work in postmodern representations of early modern culture. As criticism seeks new directions and takes new forms, insufficient attention has been paid to the literary and philosophical values won and lost in the exchanges. One result is that the way we understand the logical connections, the literary textures, and the philosophical impulses that make up the literature of writers like Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton has fundamentally changed. Examining theoretical debates now in light of polemical controversies then, the book goes beyond earlier studies in that it systematically examines the effects of these newer critical approaches across their materialist, historicist, deconstructive, and psychoanalytic manifestations. Bringing gravity and focus to this question of critical continuities and discontinuities, each chapter counterposes one major Renaissance voice with a postmodern one to probe these issues and with them the value of the cultural past. As voices on both sides of the historical divide illuminate key differences between the Renaissance and the Postmodern, a critical model emerges from the book to re-engage this period’s humane literature in a contemporary context with intellectual rigor and a renewed sense of cultural enrichment.
Table of Contents
1. Invisible Baldricks: Theatrical Representation in Jonson and Orgel 2. Machiavel as Historian: Historical Sense in Shakespeare and Foucault 3. Deconstructing Satan: Linguistic Play in Milton and Derrida 4. Mirroring Obsessions: Reading Desire in Spenser and Lacan 5. Cursed Learning: Colonizing Thought in Montaigne and Greenblatt
Thomas L. Martin is associate professor of English at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches literary theory, Renaissance literature, and literature of the fantastic. He is the author of Poiesis and Possible Worlds: A Study in Modality and Literary Theory and of various articles on the Renaissance, theory, and fantasy.
Duke Pesta is associate professor of English at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, and courses ranging from the Bible to Russian literature and from Dante to C. S. Lewis. He is the author of various articles on Shakespeare, Renaissance Drama, Michelangelo, the history of medicine, and the intersection of Renaissance literature, art, and science and is editor of a biographical and critical edition of the life and work of Lord Byron.
"This is a welcome contribution to the discussion of the explanatory capacity of postmodern vocabulary, which has come to be accepted in professional criticism of Early Modern literature. Here, the authors investigate the (perhaps unwitting) literal application of the "metaphors" of once-fashionable postmodern critics (Derrida, Foucault, and Lacan) to the texts of Spenser, Milton, and (especially) Shakespeare. This book is learned, clearly-written, and fair."
- Stanley Stewart, Department of English, University of California, Riverside