Excess and the Mean in Early Modern English Literature (Google eBook)

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Princeton University Press, Feb 9, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 376 pages
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This book examines how English writers from the Elizabethan period to the Restoration transformed and contested the ancient ideal of the virtuous mean. As early modern authors learned at grammar school and university, Aristotle and other classical thinkers praised "golden means" balanced between extremes: courage, for example, as opposed to cowardice or recklessness. By uncovering the enormous variety of English responses to this ethical doctrine, Joshua Scodel revises our understanding of the vital interaction between classical thought and early modern literary culture.

Scodel argues that English authors used the ancient schema of means and extremes in innovative and contentious ways hitherto ignored by scholars. Through close readings of diverse writers and genres, he shows that conflicting representations of means and extremes figured prominently in the emergence of a self-consciously modern English culture. Donne, for example, reshaped the classical mean to promote individual freedom, while Bacon held extremism necessary for human empowerment. Imagining a modern rival to ancient Rome, georgics from Spenser to Cowley exhorted England to embody the mean or lauded extreme paths to national greatness. Drinking poetry from Jonson to Rochester expressed opposing visions of convivial moderation and drunken excess, while erotic writing from Sidney to Dryden and Behn pitted extreme passion against the traditional mean of conjugal moderation. Challenging his predecessors in various genres, Milton celebrated golden means of restrained pleasure and self-respect. Throughout this groundbreaking study, Scodel suggests how early modern treatments of means and extremes resonate in present-day cultural debates.

  

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Didn't get to much, but offers an excellent play-by-play of John Donne's Satire III, sponging up the guessing game that the satire would otherwise be.

Contents

9780691090283_2INT
1
9780691090283_3CH1
19
9780691090283_4CH2
48
9780691090283_5CH3
77
9780691090283_6CH4
111
9780691090283_7CH5
143
9780691090283_8CH6
170
9780691090283_9CH7
197
Contents
373
Acknowledgments and Note on Citations
375
Ancient Paradigms in Modern Conflicts
1
Two Early Modern Revisions of the Mean
19
Means and Extremes in Early Modern Georgic
77
Erotic Excess and Early Modern Social Conflicts
143
Moderation and Excess in the SeventeenthCentury Symposiastic Lyric
197
Reimagining Moderation The Miltonic Example
253

9780691090283_10CH8
225
9780691090283_11CH9
253
9780691090283_12PS
285
9780691090283_13NOT
289
9780691090283_14IND
353
Sublime Excess Dull Moderation and Contemporary Ambivalence
285
Notes
289
Index
353
Copyright

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