Tradition and Subversion in Renaissance Literature: Studies in Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and DonneMurray Roston $60.00
Published in 2007 | 258 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0390-9
“In a book full of common sense readings of both early and modern texts and of critical responses to those texts, Roston illuminates and successfully counters the oversimplifying tendencies of the deconstructionist agenda. To slight Roston's book as merely or untimely reactionary, however, would be to ignore its clear-headed treatment of the relationships between tradition and innovation, as well as its insights into the ways in which some of the best English Renaissance writers conceived of their work.” — Seventeenth-Century News
“Tradition and Subversion in Renaissance Literary Studies is a thoughtful study, rich in both historical scholarship and in its survey of modern criticism. Even those who are quite familiar with the texts discussed in the book will find Roston's focus on the tension between maintaining the expectations of the culture and pulling toward new ideas an illuminating way to freshly consider these literary works.” — SRL
“This is a well-written, clearly argued and admirably researched study that should appeal to all early modern scholars.” — The Year's Work in English Studies
Deconstructionist critics have argued that literary works contain conflicting or contradictory meanings, thus creating an aporia, or impasse, that prevents readers from interpreting the work. Here, however, Murray Roston offers detailed and essentially new analyses of works by Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and Donne, arguing that the seemingly contradictory presence of traditional and subversive elements in their major works actually creates the source of much of their literary achievement. Chapters explore The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Faerie Queene, Volpone, and the Meditations of John Donne, highlighting the creative tension between centripetal and centrifugal factors (borrowing Bakhtin's terms). As Roston demonstrates, this tension exists in a variety of genres, including poetry, epic and drama, and even in religious prose⎯which, he acknowledges, might be thought to be exempt from such inner conflict because of its doctrinal and theological focus. The tension between tradition and subversion, both linguistic and cultural, then, can be seen to produce not aporia in any negative sense, but a positive complexity of response from the audience, animating and profoundly enriching each work. In The Merchant of Venice, for example, Shakespeare merges the previously despised figure of the merchant with a Christ-like figure, brilliantly reasserting the Christian condemnation of profiteering while simultaneously advocating its seeming opposite, a validation of the burgeoning mercantile activity of the Renaissance. Tradition and Subversion in Renaissance Literary Studies is a thoughtful study, rich in both historical scholarship and in its survey of modern criticism. Even those who are quite familiar with the texts discussed here will find Roston's focus on the tension between maintaining the expectations of the culture and pulling toward new ideas an illuminating way to freshly consider these literary works.
MURRAY ROSTON is professor of English at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and permanent adjunct professor of English at UCLA. He has published many books, among them Biblical Drama in England, Renaissance Perspectives in Literary Studies and the Visual Arts, Milton and the Baroque, Sixteenth Century English Literary Studies, and Graham Greeene's Narrative Strategies: A Study of the Major Novels.