Futile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility by Corey McEleneyFutile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility by Corey McEleney

Futile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility

byCorey McEleney

Paperback | January 2, 2017

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Against the defensive backdrop of countless apologetic justifications for the value of literature and the humanities, Futile Pleasures reframes the current conversation by returning to the literary culture of early modern England, a culture whose defensive posture toward literature rivals and shapes our own.

During the Renaissance, poets justified the value of their work on the basis of the notion that the purpose of poetry is to please and instruct, that it must be both delightful and useful. At the same time, many of these writers faced the possibility that the pleasures of literature may be in conflict with the demand to be useful and valuable. Analyzing the rhetoric of pleasure and the pleasure of rhetoric in texts by William Shakespeare, Roger Ascham, Thomas Nashe, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton, McEleney explores the ambivalence these writers display toward literature's potential for useless, frivolous vanity.

Tracing that ambivalence forward to the modern era, this book also shows how contemporary critics have recapitulated Renaissance humanist ideals about aesthetic value. Against a longstanding tradition that defensively advocates for the redemptive utility of literature, Futile Pleasures both theorizes and performs the queer pleasures of futility. Without ever losing sight of the costs of those pleasures, McEleney argues that playing with futility may be one way of moving beyond the impasses that modern humanists, like their early modern counterparts, have always faced.

Corey McEleney is Assistant Professor of English at Fordham University.
Title:Futile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of UtilityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pagesPublished:January 2, 2017Publisher:Fordham University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0823272664

ISBN - 13:9780823272662

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Editorial Reviews

Futile Pleasures provides a timely reminder that, in the face of ceaseless debates about the role of the humanities, we might recall the history of such a demand for usefulness and, in doing so, uncover the radical possibilities available in pleasure.