Barbarous Antiquity

Barbarous Antiquity: Reorienting the Past in the Poetry of Early Modern England

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Barbarous Antiquity
    Book Description:

    In the late sixteenth century, English merchants and diplomats ventured into the eastern Mediterranean to trade directly with the Turks, the keepers of an important emerging empire in the Western Hemisphere, and these initial exchanges had a profound effect on English literature. While the theater investigated representations of religious and ethnic identity in its portrayals of Turks and Muslims, poetry, Miriam Jacobson argues, explored East-West exchanges primarily through language and the material text. Just as English markets were flooded with exotic goods, so was the English language awash in freshly imported words describing items such as sugar, jewels, plants, spices, paints, and dyes, as well as technological advancements such as the use of Arabic numerals in arithmetic and the concept of zero.

    Even as these Eastern words and imports found their way into English poetry, poets wrestled with paying homage to classical authors and styles. InBarbarous Antiquity, Jacobson reveals how poems adapted from Latin or Greek sources and set in the ancient classical world were now reoriented to reflect a contemporary, mercantile Ottoman landscape. As Renaissance English writers including Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe, and Chapman weighed their reliance on classical poetic models against contemporary cultural exchanges, a new form of poetry developed, positioned at the crossroads of East and West, ancient and modern. Building each chapter around the intersection of an Eastern import and a classical model, Jacobson shows how Renaissance English poetry not only reconstructed the classical past but offered a critique of that very enterprise with a new set of words and metaphors imported from the East.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9007-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Trafficking with Antiquity: Trade, Poetry, and Remediation
    (pp. 1-26)

    In the poetry of late sixteenth-century England, writers struggled with ambivalence toward ancient Greek and Latin poetic paradigms. Classical antiquity was already estranged: as a fragmented, partially obscured, and lost “golden age,” it was only partly accessible through its literary remains. Though they wrote in vernacular English, most early modern writers were nevertheless schooled in Latin from childhood. As they wrestled with this literary legacy, writers turned to contemporary mercantile trade for new models and metaphors. Much of this trade was located in the Levant, the same space occupied by the classical myths that inspired much of early modern poetry....

    • Chapter 1 Strange Language: Imported Words in Jonson’s Ars Poetica
      (pp. 29-53)

      Peter Burke notes that the hybridization of all European languages increased in the early modern period, a process he attributes to diaspora, trade, and imperial conquest.¹ According to Bryan Garner and Paula Blank, between 1500 and 1650, at least 20,000 new words entered the English vocabulary and nearly 8,000 in the period between the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Queen Elizabeth’s death (1588–1603).² Many of them were newly coined words combining Latin or Anglo-Saxon roots, likeconsanguineous.³ Others, likedamaskandtulip, came from the East because embroidered cloth, attar of roses, and tulip bulbs came from Damascus...

    • Chapter 2 Shaping Subtlety: Sugar in The Arte of English Poesie
      (pp. 54-84)

      In the late sixteenth century, something changed in how people wrote about poetry. No longer content with metaphors of honey, sweet fruit, and wine, poets began to employ words that described a newer, more far-fetched import, sugar, to articulate the idea of poetic sweetness. Over the course of this chapter, I will document this shift in order to show how sugar offered English poets and poetic theorists a new, material medium for talking about poetry. As I hope my reading of Puttenham’sArte of English Poesiewill demonstrate, sugary language and imagery made it possible for writers to conceive of...

    • Chapter 3 Publishing Pain: Zero in The Rape of Lucrece
      (pp. 87-113)

      In the previous two chapters, I have discussed how early modern English poetry came to be filled with verbal and figurative references to imported merchandise, including nonnative English words, that threatened to supplant, destabilize, and undermine the status of classical poetry. But metaphors for Levantine and Asian imports combined with their corresponding newly imported English words also could allow poets to represent ancient civilization in a new (early) modern light. In this section of the book, I explore how these imports, functioning as metaphors and as rhetorical devices, may have offered alternative resolutions to the violent discourse of Ovidian metamorphosis...

    • Chapter 4 Breeding Fame: Horses and Bulbs in Venus and Adonis
      (pp. 114-146)

      Near the end of Shakespeare’s narrative poemVenus and Adonis, the goddess Venus, enraged and grief stricken by the death of her unrequited love Adonis, bestows upon lovers a universe of pain for all future generations. Foreshadowing Adonis’s corporeal metamorphosis into an ephemeral blossom, Venus converts love from something that gives pleasure into a force for sorrow: “‘It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud, / Bud and be blasted in a breathing-while’” (1141–42).¹ In this passage, Shakespeare draws attention to Ovid’s description of the anemone into which Adonis transforms, a flower that takes its Greek name from...

    • Chapter 5 On Chapman Crossing Marlowe’s Hellespont: Pearls, Dyes, and Ink in Hero and Leander
      (pp. 149-188)

      Over the course of this book, I have described the effect that Ottoman and Asian imports, in their verbal and visual representation, had on early modern English poetry, how they disrupted and reconfigured early modern attitudes to literary classical antiquity. Both the imports (words, sugar, zero, horses, bulbs) and the network of poetic images representing them within a given literary text functioned as mediators and intermediaries, reshaping how people thought about language, style, poetry, nothing, writing, hybridization, and textual reproduction. In this chapter, I will examine a final set of Middle Eastern and Asian imports: pearls and pigments. Like the...

  8. Epilogue: The Peregrinations of Barbarous Antiquity
    (pp. 189-202)

    In each of this book’s chapters, the East emerges from the graphic space of the material page. Latour’s model of mediators and intermediaries as instigators of cultural change depends upon a tangible, physical metamorphosis occurring in the material structure of the mediator itself. The malleable, protean nature of the material text is therefore what makes this transformative process possible in early modern poetry and poetics. The imported, newly minted words thatPoetaster’s characters expel materialize as strips of paper, as vocalizations, and as italicized commodities on the pages where they appear. Though the play was popular in contemporary performance, this...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 203-248)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-268)
  11. Index
    (pp. 269-284)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 285-286)