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Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England

Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England

by Jenny C. Mann


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A central feature of English Renaissance humanism was its reverence for classical Latin as the one true form of eloquent expression. Yet sixteenth-century writers increasingly came to believe that England needed an equally distinguished vernacular language to serve its burgeoning national community. Thus, one of the main cultural projects of Renaissance rhetoricians was that of producing a "common" vernacular eloquence, mindful of its classical origins yet self-consciously English in character. The process of vernacularization began during Henry VIII’s reign and continued, with fits and starts, late into the seventeenth century.

In Outlaw Rhetoric, Jenny C. Mann examines the substantial and largely unexplored archive of vernacular rhetorical guides produced in England between 1500 and 1700. Writers of these guides drew upon classical training as they translated Greek and Latin figures of speech into an everyday English that could serve the ends of literary and national invention. In the process, however, they confronted aspects of rhetoric that run counter to its civilizing impulse. For instance, Mann finds repeated references to Robin Hood, indicating an ongoing concern that vernacular rhetoric is "outlaw" to the classical tradition because it is common, popular, and ephemeral. As this book shows, however, such allusions hint at a growing acceptance of the nonclassical along with a new esteem for literary production that can be identified as native to England. Working across a range of genres, Mann demonstrates the effects of this tension between classical rhetoric and English outlawry in works by Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Jonson, and Cavendish. In so doing she reveals the political stakes of the vernacular rhetorical project in the age of Shakespeare.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801449659
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 02/15/2012
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jenny C. Mann is Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Tale of Robin HoodChapter 1. Common Rhetoric: Planting Figures of Speech in the English ShireChapter 2. The Trespasser: Displacing Virgilian Figures in Spenser's Faerie QueeneChapter 3. The Insertour: Putting the Parenthesis in Sidney's ArcadiaChapter 4. The Changeling: Mingling Heroes and Hobgoblins in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s DreamChapter 5. The Figure of Exchange: Gender Exchange in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 and Jonson’s EpiceneChapter 6. The Mingle-Mangle: The Hodgepodge of Fancy and Philosophy in Cavendish’s Blazing WorldConclusion: "Words Made Visible" and the Turn against RhetoricAppendix of English Rhetorical Manuals

What People are Saying About This

Wayne Rebhorn

"Outlaw Rhetoric is a smart, insightful, well-informed, and beautifully written book. Using English Renaissance rhetoric manuals in conjunction with the literary texts informed by them, Jenny C. Mann argues that one of the main cultural projects of the English Renaissance, namely its desire to elevate the English language and place it on a level with Latin and Greek, was beset with problems and conflicts from the start. In support of this assertion about the changing place of rhetoric in English Renaissance culture, she offers a series of readings of important literary works by Cavendish, Jonson, Shakespeare, Sidney, and Spenser."

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