Hot Holiday Reads!


Hot Holiday Reads! 

Exquisite Mixture: The Virtues of Impurity in Early Modern England

Author: Wolfram Schmidgen

Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (September 13, 2012)

Summary

The culture of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain is rarely credited with tolerance of diversity; this period saw a rising pride in national identity, the expansion of colonialism, and glorification of the Anglo-Saxon roots of the country. Yet at the same time, Wolfram Schmidgen observes, the concept of mixture became a critical element of Britons’ belief in their own superiority. While the scientific, political, and religious establishment of the early 1600s could not imagine that anything truly formed, virtuous, or durable could be produced by mixing unlike kinds or merging absolute forms, intellectuals at the end of the century asserted that mixture could produce superior languages, new species, flawless ideas, and resilient civil societies.

Exquisite Mixture examines the writing of Robert Boyle, John Locke, Daniel Defoe, and others who challenged the primacy of the one over the many, the whole over the parts, and form over matter. Schmidgen traces the emergence of the valuation of mixture to the political and scientific revolutions of the seventeenth century. The recurrent threat of absolutism in this period helped foster alliances within a broad range of writers and fields of inquiry, from geo­graphy, embryology, and chemistry to political science and philosophy. By retrieving early modern arguments for the civilizing effects of mixture, Schmidgen invites us to rethink the stories we tell about the development of modern society. Not merely the fruit of postmodernism, the theorization and valuation of hybridity have their roots in centuries past.

Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England

Author: Paul C. H. Lim

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (September 10, 2012)

Summary

Paul C. H. Lim offers an insightful examination of the polemical debates about the doctrine of the Trinity in seventeenth-century England, showing that the philosophical and theological re-configuration of this doctrine had a significant impact on the politics of religion in the early modern period.

Lim’s analysis of these heated polemics shows how Trinitarian God-talk became untenable in many ecclesiastical and philosophical circles, leading to the emergence of Unitarianism. He demonstrates that those who continued to uphold Trinitarian doctrine articulated their piety and theological perspectives in an increasingly secularized culture of discourse. Drawing on both unexplored manuscripts and well-known treatises of Continental and English provenance, he uncovers the complex layers of the polemic: from biblical exegesis to reception history of patristic authorities, from popular religious radicalism during the Civil War to Puritan spirituality, from Continental Socinians to English anti-Trinitarians who claimed an independent theological identity, from the notion of the Platonic captivity of primitive Christianity to that of Plato as “Moses Atticus.”

Among this book’s surprising findings are that Anti-Trinitarian sentiment arose in a Puritan ambience in which biblical literalism overrode rationalistic presuppositions, and that theology and philosophy were more closely connected during this period than previously thought. Mystery Unveiled fills a significant lacuna in early modern English intellectual history.

Carnival and Literature in Early Modern England

Author: Jennifer C. Vaught

Publisher: Arena (July 28, 2012)

Summary

“Carnival and Literature in Early Modern England” explores the elite and popular festive materials appropriated by authors during the English Renaissance in a wide range of dramatic and non-dramatic texts. Although historical records of rural, urban, and courtly seasonal customs in early modern England exist only in fragmentary form, Jennifer Vaught traces the sustained impact of festivals and rituals on the plays and poetry of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English writers. She focuses on the diverse ways in which Shakespeare, Spenser, Marlowe, Dekker, Jonson, Milton and Herrick incorporated the carnivalesque in their works. Further, she demonstrates how these early modern texts were used – and misused – by later writers, performers, and inventors of spectacles, notably Mardi Gras krewes organizing parades in the American Deep South. The works featured here often highlight violent conflicts between individuals of different ranks, ethnicities, and religions, which the author argues reflect the social realities of the time. These Renaissance writers responded to republican, egalitarian notions of liberty for the populace with radical support, ambivalence, or conservative opposition. Ultimately, the vital, folkloric dimension of these plays and poems challenges the notion that canonical works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries belong only to ‘high’ and not to ‘low’ culture.

 ‘Grossly Material Things’: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England

Author: Helen Smith

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (August 18, 2012)

Summary

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf described fictions as ‘grossly material things’, rooted in their physical and economic contexts. This book takes Woolf’s brief hint as its starting point, asking who made the books of the English Renaissance, and what the material circumstances were in which they did so. It charts a new history of making and use, recovering the ways in which women shaped and altered the books of this crucial period, as co-authors, editors, translators, patrons, printers, booksellers, and readers.

Drawing on evidence from a wide range of sources, including court records, letters, diaries, medical texts, and the books themselves, ‘Grossly Material Things’ moves between the realms of manuscript and print, and tells the stories of literary, political, and religious texts from broadside ballads to plays, monstrous birth pamphlets to editions of the Bible. In uncovering the neglected history of women’s textual labours, and the places and spaces in which women went about the business of making, Helen Smith offers a new perspective on the history of books and reading. Where Woolf believed that Shakespeare’s sister, had she existed, would have had no opportunity to pursue a literary career, ‘Grossly Material Things’ paints a compelling picture of Judith Shakespeare’s varied job prospects, and promises to reshape our understanding of gendered authorship in the English Renaissance.

 The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

Author: Hannah Newton

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 18, 2012)

Summary

The Sick Child in Early Modern England is a powerful exploration of the treatment, perception, and experience of illness in childhood, from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. At this time, the sickness or death of a child was a common occurrence – over a quarter of young people died before the age of fifteen – and yet this subject has received little scholarly attention.

Hannah Newton takes three perspectives: first, she investigates medical understandings and treatments of children. She argues that a concept of ‘children’s physic’ existed amongst doctors and laypeople: the young were thought to be physiologically distinct, and in need of special medicines. Secondly, she examines the family’s’ experience, demonstrating that parents devoted considerable time and effort to the care of their sick offspring, and experienced feelings of devastating grief upon their illnesses and deaths. Thirdly, she takes the strikingly original viewpoint of sick children themselves, offering rare and intimate insights into the emotional, spiritual, physical, and social dimensions of sickness, pain, and death.

Newton asserts that children’s experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: whilst young patients were often tormented by feelings of guilt, fears of hell, and physical pain, sickness could also be emotionally and spiritually uplifting, and invited much attention and love from parents. Drawing on a wide array of printed and archival sources, The Sick Child is of vital interest to scholars working in the interconnected fields of the history of medicine, childhood, parenthood, bodies, emotion, pain, death, religion, and gender.





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