Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare

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University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 278 pages
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Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare Jonathan Gil Harris "A stylish, readable, and important intervention in early modern studies. In recalling a past that never was, it invites us to a future that might not be the same."--Jonathan Goldberg, Emory University "It is difficult to do justice here to the extraordinarily wide range of critical and theoretical models that Harris draws on, or the ease with which he brings them together. . . . Harris's book is important, therefore, not only for its fine discussions of individual works but also for setting a yardstick for the work that early modernists might do in this area, and for the form that a 'turn to time' might take."--"TLS" "A deep, intelligent, thought-provoking book on the ways in which physical objects both inhabit and transcend time. . . . This exciting book takes familiar texts and presents them in a new way."--"Choice" Selected by "Choice" magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 The New Historicism of the 1980s and early 1990s was preoccupied with the fashioning of early modern subjects. But, Jonathan Gil Harris notes, the pronounced tendency now is to engage with objects. From textiles to stage beards to furniture, objects are read by literary critics as closely as literature used to be. For a growing number of Renaissance and Shakespeare scholars, the play is no longer the thing: the thing is the thing. Curiously, the current wave of "thing studies" has largely avoided posing questions of time. How do we understand time through a thing? What is the time of a thing? In "Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare," Harris challenges the way in which we conventionally understand physical objects and their relation to history. Turning to Renaissance theories of matter, Harris considers the profound untimeliness of things, focusing particularly on Shakespeare's stage materials. He reveals that many "Renaissance" objects were actually survivals from an older time--the medieval monastic properties that, post-Reformation, were recycled as stage props in the public playhouses, or the old Roman walls of London, still visible in Shakespeare's time. Then, as now, old objects were inherited, recycled, repurposed; they were polytemporal or palimpsested. By treating matter as dynamic and temporally hybrid, Harris addresses objects in their futurity, not just in their encapsulation of the past. "Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare" is a bold study that puts the "materiel"--the explosive, world-changing potential--back into a "material culture" that has been too often understood as inert stuff. Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at George Washington University and the author of "Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England," also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. 2008 288 pages 6 x 9 8 illus. ISBN 978-0-8122-4118-1 Cloth $59.95s 39.00 World Rights Literature Short copy: Jonathan Gil Harris challenges the way we conventionally understand physical objects. Turning to Renaissance theories of matter, he considers the profound untimeliness of things, focusing particularly on Shakespeare's stage materials.

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About the author (2009)

Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at George Washington University and the author of Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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