Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature  book cover
1st Edition

Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature

ISBN 9781138259850
Published November 28, 2016 by Routledge
186 Pages

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Book Description

Early modern printed books are copiously illustrated with charts, diagrams, and other kinds of images that represent systems of thought and ways of doing things. Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature shows how these images fostered what Elizabeth Eisenstein called brainwork related to concepts of space, truth, art, and nature, and reveals their importance to poetry by Andrew Marvell and John Milton, and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. The genres of illustration considered in this book include military strategy and tactics, garden design, instrumentation, Bibles, scientific schema, drawing instruction, natural history, comparative anatomy, and Aesop’s Fables. The argument produces unique insights into the ways in which visual rhetoric affected verbal expression, and the book develops novel methods of using printed images as evidence in the interpretation of the rich, strange, and beautiful literature of early modern England.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: printed images and early modern English literature; Space: 'The discription of the worlde': military, horticultural, and technical illustration and Andrew Marvell’s Gardens; Truth: The 'way of dichotomy': dichotomous tables and John Milton’s Paradise Lost; Art: 'Speculatory ingenuity': painting, writing, and Andrew Marvell’s 'last instructions to a painter'; Nature: 'surveying Nature, with too nice a view': naturalistic, realistic, anatomical, and allegorical animals in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko; Works cited; Index.

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Katherine O. Acheson is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Waterloo, Canada.


A Baker & Taylor Literary Essentials Title ’Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature is breathtaking in its scope, taking a material, spatial, and visual approach to early modern literature. Theoretically sophisticated, the lucidly written text and lavish illustrations illuminate contemporary meanings behind the non-pictorial image in early modern texts, while at the same time developing a language for evaluating and describing them. Acheson maps this new language and knowledge onto some of the central canons of English literature, leading to some rich new interpretations of well-known works by John Milton, Andrew Marvell, and Aphra Behn. This book is a delight to read and will certainly be of use to any student or scholar of early modern mentalities.' Angela McShane, Victoria & Albert Museum ’This material is very interesting... Acheson’s analysis of seventeenth-century styles of illustration in a wide range of genres-military, horticultural, penmanship, zoology-will encourage readers to pursue their own readings of literary works in dialogue with the vertiginous pleasures of contemporary visual culture.’ Times Literary Supplement 'Enhanced by forty reproductions of early modern printed images, Katherine Acheson's Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature explores the rich modes of representation embodied in seventeenth-century illustrations and diagrams ... Her thoughts on Behn are characteristic of the interesting connections she establishes between diagrams and literature throughout the book ...' Seventeenth-Century News ’The book is a valuable addition to the literature on early modern technical book illustration and will give literary critics and others an important window on to the visual culture within which literary works operate.’ BARS Review 'The links between the literature and the diagrams are mutually illuminating ... Visual Rhetoric provides an unexpected point of entry into core critical dilemmas of seve