The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0914 Monday, 12 May 2003
From: Rocco Coronato <
Date: Saturday, 10 May 2003 15:50:54 +0200
Subject: Shakespeare's Neighbors
Shakespeare's Neighbors: Theory Matters in the Bard and His
Lanham, New York, Oxford
University Press of America, 2001
Contents: Foreword, by Arthur F. Kinney; A Descent into Richard;
What the Matter Is With Barabas; The Invention of Perdita;
Inducting Pocahontas; The Likes of Viola; A Poem On the Tube;
Shakespeare in Laughter
Rocco Coronato (
) is Lecturer in English Literature at
the University of Siena, Italy.
* * *
Excerpt from the blurb
The book focuses on what lay next door to Shakespeare- the theoretical
context that, while partially lost on us, was quite likely to inform the
perception that Shakespeare's contemporaries (his "neighbors") had of
his works. In this series of alternative readings, the primacy of the
literary text is set against the backdrop of unexpected or largely
ignored theories whose enormous diffusion renders them inescapable terms
of comparison. Thus, Richard III is analyzed through the magnifying
glass of an exhaustive corpus on confession; the discussion of gender in
Twelfth Night is driven from the perspective of dialectic, a popular
issue for Elizabethans; comic theory and Renaissance descriptions of
laughter unravel the baffling sense of diversion and otherness in the
selfsame comedy, while Renaissance discoveries illuminate the plot of
The Winter's Tale. The book also analyzes the relevance of Renaissance
theory of trade and transformation of matter to Marlowe's Jew of Malta,
contemporary descriptions of Native Americans and Pocahontas' fleeting
appearance in Ben Jonson's masques, and the interplay between sexual
pleasure, procreation and annihilation in John Donne's "The Extasy".
This book advocates the likely as a viable backdrop to literary
analysis. The inference has it that the presence of such widely
disseminated theories may allow for the study of the literary works
through their own codes and imagery, without implying a rigidly
ideological transmission between social and literary domains.
While written with literary criticism firmly in mind, the book manages
to avoid convoluted jargon, striving in the process to translate the
terms of otherwise esoteric discourses into a generally accessible
language form, for the benefit of a non-specialist audience as well.
Primarily intended for readers interested in Early Modern studies,
especially in the fields of Elizabethan and Jacobean literature, the
book may also be accessible to specialists focusing on philosophy and
religion, the relationship between text and society, New Historicism and
Cultural Materialism, as well as to non-specialists with an interest in
Early Modern discourses on discoveries, proto-capitalism, laughter and
Excerpt from Arthur F. Kinney's introduction
The writing of Rocco Coronato is sui generis, yet it is difficult to
imagine who will not be drawn to its remarkable combination of learning,
investigation, and wit. Coronato's exploration of Renaissance culture is
what that culture itself most prized: a probing mind, an extensive
learning, a rich array of resources in juxtaposition, a passion for
learning, the play of intellect. Both the matter and the manner are
instructive, and continually attractive, too.
Coronato's own juxtapositionings always light fires to our reason and
our imagination. No matter what Renaissance text has attracted
Coronato's attention and ours and will not let any of us free, the mind
at play hereI can think only of Harry Levin as comparable always
The cultural filiations that Coronato develops out of a text always
widen our horizons, and yet always keep the text shadowing the
investigation and reappearing at its close. As readers, we can be
divided between total submersion into the culture he defines so
tellingly and kept distanced, aware that all we read interplays with
literary texts in ways that give them original, authentic life.
The thesis of Shakespeare's Neighbors, Rocco Coronato says at one point,
is his interest in suspension: that notion, growing out of philosophical
stoicism, when all things are in balance and there is a moment of
respite before decisions are made and future actions ascertained.
Surely those moments are central to each chapter and each
investigation. But we arrive at them with so much sense of cultural
activity and belief that they become not moments of inaction but moments
of startling accumulation.
Here is a book to be read with every kind of joy.
Excerpt from The Year's Work in English Studies, 2001
The two 1616 Christmas masques witnessed by Pocahontas are the focus of
Rocco Coronato's dense but interesting "Inducting Pocahontas".
Acknowledging the role of discourses of exoticism in relationship to
Native Americans in Jacobean London, Coronato indicates that a case was
also made for their easy assimilation into the body of Stuart London, a
case made explicit in the benevolent reception of Pocahontas. That
neither Christmas His Masque with its antimasque of rural customs nor A
Vision of Delight makes a case out of Pocahontas as audience is for
Coronato proof of the success of her "conversion".
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