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Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare [Paperback]

Stephen Greenblatt
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2005
Renaissance Self-Fashioning is a study of sixteenth-century life and literature that spawned a new era of scholarly inquiry. Stephen Greenblatt examines the structure of selfhood as evidenced in major literary figures of the English Renaissance—More, Tyndale, Wyatt, Spenser, Marlowe, and Shakespeare—and finds that in the early modern period new questions surrounding the nature of identity heavily influenced the literature of the era. Now a classic text in literary studies, Renaissance Self-Fashioning continues to be of interest to students of the Renaissance, English literature, and the new historicist tradition, and this new edition includes a preface by the author on the book's creation and influence.

"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

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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
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Greenblatt Practices Un-theoretical Theory May 24 2000
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on the Renaissance Ever Feb. 23 2001
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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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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2.0 out of 5 stars Doing away with Authors July 15 2003
By A Customer
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
44 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 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.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece! March 21 2014
By Jeffrey R. Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was Greenblatt's masterpiece that made a big splash when it first appeared. Since then, theoretical fashions have come and gone, but this remains one of the most insightful and enjoyable books on the period. A classic.
32 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 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.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Kind Review April 15 2014
By Marc F. Liotta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Spectacularly disappointing. The author must have gone to a special school to learn how to obscure literary material. I had to search through it to find one intelligible idea. And, in case anyone cares, I've spent 50 years working on the concepts and literature that this book pretends to address.
8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 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.
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