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Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare Paperback – Oct 1 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; New edition edition (Oct. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226306593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226306599
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 535 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #344,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"No one who has read [Greenblatt's] accounts of More, Tyndale, Wyatt, and others can fail to be moved, as well as enlightened, by an interpretive mode which is as humane and sympathetic as it is analytical. These portraits are poignantly, subtly, and minutely rendered in a beautifully lucid prose alive in every sentence to the ambivalences and complexities of its subjects." - Harry Berger Jr., University of California, Santa Cruz"

About the Author

Stephen Greenblatt is the Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including, with Catherine Gallagher, Practicing New Historicism, published by the University of Chicago Press, and the recent Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I admire this book greatly and give it 5 stars for the way it made me reread important renaissance writings. Greenblatt's stories are engaging and his writing all things considered is good for an academic. But New Historicism suffers from the disabilities of all of the new "isms"--it dispenses with evidence or rather decides what counts as evidence. Rather like the man who went to a psyciatrist claiming he was dead. "Do dead men bleed?" asked the psychiatrist "Of course not" said the patient wherupon the Psychiatrist poked him with a needle and drew blood. "What do you know" said the patient "Dead men DO bleed!" Karl Popper argued that if an argument cannot in principle be proved wrong it is not an argument. This is Greenblatt's problem
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Format: Paperback
OK. So maybe I'm biased. I took a course from Greenblatt when an undergard at U.C. Berekely, and he then directed my dissertation when I took my Ph.D. From U.C. Berkeley as well. But I am not alone in regarding this book as a masterpiece, exteremely well-written adn insightful. This book transformed not only the study of the Renaissance but of English literature in general. Moreover, it has influenced historians such as Natalie Daivis and anthropologists. After 17 years, Renaissance Self-Fashioning totally stands up. The chapters on Wyatt, Tyndale, More (truly stellar), Spenser, and Shakespeare remained unsurpassed. Readers may quibble, but though whose do have never written and will never write a book anywhere remotely near the excellence of Greeblatt's. It is truly inspired and deservedly influential.
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By A Customer on July 15 2003
Format: Paperback
Mr. Greenblatt's theories continue an academic tradition of discounting the individual work of the writer by forcing historical context over text, treating the writer of a creative work as mere vessel. What happened to the individual reader encoutering the writer via the work of art? Of course, this common sense approach would cut short a lot of pedantic careers, and that is what Critical Theory is all about: it allows pedants to have a job.
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Format: Paperback
This early example of Stephen Greenblatt's literary reading practice agrees with his theory is general. Often labeled an adherent of the new historicism (a literary theory that ascribes the authorship of books to communities and communities to books), Greenblatt shirks that title here in favor of his own phrase "cultural poetics." He explores Renaissance works, from obscure spiritual pamphlets to Shakespeare's "Othello," showing how each text is not authored by a single, coherent authorial consciousness, but is rather the product of complexly intertwined social forces, almost like an insect caught in a spider's web.
Greenblatt boldly asserts that there is no individual genius behind Shakespeare's plays, an example of the end toward which his brand of reading techniuqes are directed. Early on, he claims that his technique is not a "theory" per se, but a reading "practice," a set of approaches to literature. This claim is not fully convinving, though, and while his assessment of how people create books and books create people is thoughtful, it is hard to accept his claim that his position is free from the totalizing assumptions of every other theory.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9bd9348c) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ba44024) out of 5 stars History as Literature--Literature as History Nov. 19 2015
By Martin Asiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When Stephen Greenblatt published Renaissance Self-Fashioning in 1980, deconstruction had been flowing through America's colleges and universities for more than a decade. The New Criticism had long been relegated to the literary trash heap of interest only for its still useful methodology of close reading. Structuralism was another casualty of Jacques Derrida's demolition of a liberal humanism that had marked western discourse since Plato. Post-structuralism was the newest means to interrogate texts in a manner that would have profoundly shocked Matthew Arnold who held that a book's meaning was a sacred and originary link between author and reader.

The term proper "new historicism" was still a few years away from a widespread verbal coinage. Greenblatt used "self-fashioning" as a sort of pre-new historicist wedge to shrink a text's purported autonomy and expand the role of the de-legitimated voices lurking in the margins of literary and historical texts. For a Renaissance scholar like Stephen Greenblatt, the notion of self-consciousness was ripe for an overhaul. He noticed that prior to the sixteenth century, self-consciousness had remained a remarkably stable concept for centuries. It was assumed to be stable, progressive, and autonomous, in short the antithesis of the very logocentric bulls-eye that Derrida had assailed in his various essays and books. Greenblatt noted with satisfaction a quote from a philosophical soul-mate Clifford Geertz: "There is no such thing as a human nature independent of culture." Greenblatt in the years to come would add that anything that the human mind could construct from artifact to the printed word would have a similar limitation. But in Renaissance Self-Fashioning, he would begin to overturn the "old" historicism with a novel definition of the self.

He would begin with a fresh look at "culture." Culture could no longer be seen as a totalization of human abstractions like custom, usage, tradition, and habit clusters. Now for Stephen Greenblatt, culture had to be viewed under what he saw as a burgeoning Renaissance sixteenth century prism of culture as a "control mechanism" that governed human behavior. It is this concept of "control" that forms the core of all new historicist thought. Control implies power but not the raw power that most think of. In the discourses of Michel Foucault, power is softer and less obstrusive than the head-bashing version that sticks in most people's minds. Foucault's power is web-like, wending its way through all strata of human endeavor. Those who control power tend to live lives centered at the hub of their culture. Those who endure power tend to live marginalized lives at the periphery. Greenblatt assimilated this Foucaldian hybrid of power to postulate a means by which the disenfranchised--the gays, the insane, the deviants--would find a forum from which they could verbalize their long repressed voices.

In the six essays that comprise Renaissance Self-Fashioning, Stephen Greenblatt presents a view of the culture behavior matrix that constructs a mutually engaging human consciousness that is at once shaped by its environment and shapes it in turn. This brings in the chicken or the egg conundrum. If human consciousness is both source and result of this matrix, where then does free human will lie? The key words here of course are "free" and "will," with neither having autonomous existence. In the new historicist world of Stephen Greenblatt, nothing is "free." Everything is subject to endless negotiation, and "will" is nothing more than a catch-all amorphous phrase that has tendrils of thought flowing in and out of human consciousness so subtly that one never knows whether any one thought is truly originary (a Greenblattian impossibility) or merely the latest result of a nearly infinite loop of negotiations of which one is very likely totally unaware. In his introduction, he introduces the phrase poetics of culture, which he thinks of as a balancing act between customs/institutions and the interpretive constructions society applies to their experiences.

Greenblatt applies this balancing act to More, Wyatt, Spenser, and Marlowe and sees a common denominator in the mutuality of the self-consciousness hybrid. All three are non-titled middle-class writers, a fortuitous designation that prevents them from being indelibly rooted into an autonomous bear hug of impermeable cultural identity. He also sees a parallel between self-fashioning (as an early version of new historicist dominance and subversion paradox) and submission to an absolute power or authority. Greenblatt would later drop this emphasis on submission to some threatening alien authority in favor of creation of a national self-identity that deliberately seeks to undermine itself so that this undermining comes close to but never quite succeeds in eliminating the royal ethos as a continuing entity. He would later pick up this thread of creation through seeming submission in Shakespearean Negotiations, when he sees the Prince Hal/Falstaff rascality duo as strengthening the monarchy even as it seemingly appears to subvert it. Thus, Renaissance Self-Fashioning sets out the initial groundwork for a theory that in just a few more years would become the most dominant discourse of the twentieth century.
46 of 68 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ba44078) out of 5 stars Greenblatt Practices Un-theoretical Theory May 24 2000
By wilson brissett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This early example of Stephen Greenblatt's literary reading practice agrees with his theory is general. Often labeled an adherent of the new historicism (a literary theory that ascribes the authorship of books to communities and communities to books), Greenblatt shirks that title here in favor of his own phrase "cultural poetics." He explores Renaissance works, from obscure spiritual pamphlets to Shakespeare's "Othello," showing how each text is not authored by a single, coherent authorial consciousness, but is rather the product of complexly intertwined social forces, almost like an insect caught in a spider's web.
Greenblatt boldly asserts that there is no individual genius behind Shakespeare's plays, an example of the end toward which his brand of reading techniuqes are directed. Early on, he claims that his technique is not a "theory" per se, but a reading "practice," a set of approaches to literature. This claim is not fully convinving, though, and while his assessment of how people create books and books create people is thoughtful, it is hard to accept his claim that his position is free from the totalizing assumptions of every other theory.
HASH(0x9ba444b0) out of 5 stars the book for a generation in the scholarly writing on ... Sept. 7 2015
By eduardo gonzalez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
the book for a generation in the scholarly writing on Early Modern English Lit. Reinvented reading in a wide cultural and political context.
11 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ba44498) out of 5 stars Utterly Helpful Oct. 21 2007
By Emily Hobbit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I do not believe I would read this book on my own initiative to just "learn", for the authors' style simply does not work with my style of reading and comprehending. That said, this book is absolutely invaluable for research on major Renaissance authors. The bibliographies and sources cited within his essays are also utterly helpful should more sources be needed for the project at hand. I will admit that at times I find the essays to ramble on a little, but I have always been a to-the-point writer. Those same endless sentences also make wonderful cited quotations, so I cannot complain too much.

Perfect for any student of Renaissance literature, or the Renaissance intellectual.
33 of 58 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ba44960) out of 5 stars The Best Book on the Renaissance Ever Feb. 23 2001
By Richard Burt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
OK. So maybe I'm biased. I took a course from Greenblatt when an undergard at U.C. Berekely, and he then directed my dissertation when I took my Ph.D. From U.C. Berkeley as well. But I am not alone in regarding this book as a masterpiece, exteremely well-written adn insightful. This book transformed not only the study of the Renaissance but of English literature in general. Moreover, it has influenced historians such as Natalie Daivis and anthropologists. After 17 years, Renaissance Self-Fashioning totally stands up. The chapters on Wyatt, Tyndale, More (truly stellar), Spenser, and Shakespeare remained unsurpassed. Readers may quibble, but though whose do have never written and will never write a book anywhere remotely near the excellence of Greeblatt's. It is truly inspired and deservedly influential.


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