Renaissance Suppliants: Poetry, Antiquity, Reconciliation

Hardcover | July 9, 2016

byLeah Whittington

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Renaissance Suppliants studies supplication as a social and literary event in the long European Renaissance. It argues that scenes of supplication are defining episodes in a literary tradition stretching back to Greco-Roman antiquity, taking us to the heart of fundamental questions of politicsand religion, ethics and identity, sexuality and family. As a perennial mode of asymmetrical communication in moments of helplessness and extreme need, supplication speaks to ways that people live together despite grave inequalities. It is a strategy that societies use to regulate and perpetuatethemselves, to negotiate conflict, and to manage situations in which relationships threaten to unravel. All the writers discussed here - Vergil, Petrarch, Shakespeare, and Milton - find supplication indispensable for thinking about problems of antagonism, difference, and hierarchy, bringing the aesthetic resources of supplicatory interactions to bear on their unique literary and culturalcircumstances. The opening chapters establish a conceptual framework for thinking about supplication as facilitating transitions between states of feeling and positions of relative status, beginning with Homer and classical literature. Vergil's Aeneid is paradigmatic instance in which literary andsocial structures of the ancient past are transformed to suit the needs of the present, and supplication becomes a figure for the act of cultural translation. Subsequent chapters take up different aspects of Renaissance supplicatory discourse, showing how postures of humiliation and abjection areappropriated and transformed in erotic poetry, drama, and epic. The book ends with Milton who invests gestures of self-abasement with unexpected dignity.

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Renaissance Suppliants studies supplication as a social and literary event in the long European Renaissance. It argues that scenes of supplication are defining episodes in a literary tradition stretching back to Greco-Roman antiquity, taking us to the heart of fundamental questions of politicsand religion, ethics and identity, sexualit...

Leah Whittington is Assistant Professor of English at Harvard University. After receiving her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University, she was a Mellon Fellow at the Columbia Society of Fellows in the Humanities. Her research and teaching focus on English Renaissance literature and its classical and Continental antecede...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.31 × 0.1 inPublished:July 9, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198754442

ISBN - 13:9780198754442

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Supplicatory Dynamics: Problems, Paradoxes, and Paradigms2. "Spare this life": Pleading, Pardon, and the Reader in Vergil's Aeneid3. Pity, Mercy, and Desire: Supplication and Erotic Psychology in Petrarch's Africa and Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta 4. "Let us shame him with our knees": Constraint and Coercion in Shakespeare's Richard II and Coriolanus