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Excess and the Mean in Early Modern English Literature : Literature in History - Joshua Scodel

Excess and the Mean in Early Modern English Literature

Literature in History

Hardcover

Published: 24th March 2002
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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.

"A worthy contribution to the ongoing study of the mentality of the early modern period and its relationship to the classical and Christian heritage."--Choice "[Scodel's] range of material and reference is admirable. He moves easily and with panache through five sections... There is much to admire and learn from in Excess and the Mean in Early Modern English Literature."--Andrew Hadfield, Times Literary Supplement "An excellent book, ambitious in scope and masterful in its management of scholarly resources and interpretive techniques."--Jon A. Quitslund, Renaissance Quarterly

Acknowledgments and Note on Citations vii Introduction: Ancient Paradigms in Modern Conflicts 1
Two Early Modern Revisions of the Meanp. 19
Donne and the Personal Meanp. 21
"Mediocrities "and "Extremities ": Baconian Flexibility and the Aristotelian Mean 48
Means and Extremes in Early Modern Georgicp. 77
Moderation,Temperate Climate,and National Ethos from Spenser to Miltonp. 79
Concord, Conquest, and Commerce from Spenser to Cowleyp. 111
Erotic Excess and Early Modern Social Conflictsp. 143
Passionate Extremes and Noble Natures from Elizabethan to Caroline Literaturep. 145
Erotic Excess versus Interest in Mid-to Late-Seventeenth-Century Literaturep. 170
Moderation and Excess in the Seventeenth-Century Symposiastic Lyricp. 197
Drinking and the Politics of Poetic Identity from Jonson to Herrickp. 199
Drinking and Cultural Conflict from Lovelace to Rochesterp. 225
Reimagining Moderation:The Miltonic Examplep. 253
Paradise Lost ,Pleasurable Restraint, and the Mean of Self-Respectp. 255
Postscript: Sublime Excess, Dull Moderation, and Contemporary Ambivalencep. 285
Notesp. 289
Indexp. 353
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691090283
ISBN-10: 0691090289
Series: Literature in History
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 376
Published: 24th March 2002
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.2  x 3.18
Weight (kg): 0.68