Reconfiguring the Renaissance: Essays in Critical Materialism
Dealing primarily with English and Italian Renaissance texts, and representing the work of emerging as well as established critics in the Renaissance field, this volume reveals some of the polemical and methodological diversity of current Renaissance interpretation. What the volume additionally reveals, however, is a shared commitment on the part of contributors to "material" scholarship and interpretation. Partly because of the impact of the new historicism and cultural materialism on Renaissance studies during the past decade, the reading of Renaissance texts has increasingly been directed by materialist categories and imperatives. It has also been marked by increased recognition of the extent to which the humanistic discourse of the Renaissance is already occupied with the materiality of language, of writing, and of gendered bodily representation, including that of the so-called body politic. While an interest in such issues is far from being confined to the Renaissance field at present, the singular importance of the Renaissance as an epoch in Western material culture has continued to stimulate materialist approaches in that field. What is emphasized in the introduction to the volume as well as in the essays that follow is the still-exploratory and self-reflexive nature of "critical materialism." That term does not, in other words, denote any fixed or fully established methodology. Rather, it identifies a critical practice informed, on one hand, by philosophical antecedents going back as least as far as the Renaissance, and on the other by a complex discourse of "materiality" that has emerged during the past two decades in fields as diverse as those of feminism, poststructuralist Marxism, psychoanalysis, and pragmatism. For historical and methodological reasons, critical materialism maintains strong interest in economic concepts, and hence in the Marxist critique of political economy. It takes full account, however, of differing constructions of the "economic" in non-Marxist discourse. Topics specifically addressed in the volume include the construction of Renaissance selfhood; the multipolar rather than centered (or decentered) configuration of Renaissance culture; the psychic economy of Renaissance asthetic production; the shaping power of writing and translation as material practices; the formation of imperial discourse in Renaissance Italy; and the "materiality" of Renaissance religious and pastoral representation. Among the texts considered are Cellini's Life; the history of the Martin Guerre; Montaigne's essays in the Florio translation; Shakespeare's Henry IV; Italian bureaucratic correspondence of the sixteenth century; and Spenser's Faerie Queene.
Contributors: Elizabeth J. Bellamy, Jane Tylus, T. G. Bishop, Jonathon Goldberg, Jonathon Crewe, Stephanie Jed, Timothy Murray, and Debora Kuller Shuger.
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