Solitude and Speechlessness: Renaissance Writing and Reading in Isolation
Recent literary criticism, along with academic culture at large, has stressed collaboration as essential to textual creation and sociability as a literary and academic virtue. Solitude and Speechlessness proposes an alternative understanding of writing with a complementary mode of reading: literary engagement, it suggests, is the meeting of strangers, each in a state of isolation. The Renaissance authors discussed in this study did not necessarily work alone or without collaborators, but they were uncertain who would read their writings and whether those readers would understand them.
These concerns are represented in their work through tropes, images, and characterizations of isolation. The figure of the isolated, misunderstood, or misjudged poet is a preoccupation that relies on imagining the lives of wandering and complaining youths, eloquent melancholics, exemplary hermits, homeless orphans, and retiring stoics; such figures acknowledge the isolation in literary experience. As a response to this isolation of literary connection, Solitude and Speechlessness proposes an interpretive mode it defines as strange reading: a reading that merges comprehension with indeterminacy and the imaginative work of interpretation with the recognition of historical difference.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 272 pages
- Illustrations: 2
- Dimensions: 5.9in x 1.0in x 9.2in
"Solitude and Speechlessness is a book that scholars of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English poetry will appreciate for its detailed, precise, and accurate analysis of canonical works. It provides a re-reading of such works through a peculiar lens: the pursuit, or fear, of the sense of isolation that allows us to find, but also lose, ourselves."
Elena Brizio, Georgetown University
Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme
"Written in lively and engaging prose, Solitude and Speechlessness returns readers to the problematic of the literary text through a new and exciting lens, reminding us of the hermeneutic humility and epistemological uncertainty that we should exercise when entering into this strange yet rewarding period of literary history."
Grant Williams, Department of English, Carleton University
"Solitude and Speechlessness is a serious, sophisticated, and well-informed discussion of a series of English poets from the late-sixteenth to the late-seventeenth-century, centered on the relations between authorial self-consciousness and literary history."
Gordon Braden, Department of English, University of Virginia
Author InformationAndrew Mattison teaches in the English Department at the University of Toledo.
Table of contents
Introduction: Writing in Solitude
1. Lyric Futures: Hidden Ambitions in the Sidney-Pembroke Circle
2. Nameless Orphans: Ambitious Poetry in an Age of Modesty
3. The Peril of Understanding: Forms of Obscurity
4. The Lure of Solitude: Melancholy and Eremitism as Literary Dispositions
5. The Naked Sense of Retirement: Cowley, Marvell, Traherne
6. Literary History in Isolation: Bacon, Hofmannsthal, and Historical Memory
Conclusion: Reading in Solitude
Subjects and Courses