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At Zero Point

At Zero Point: Discourse, Culture, and Satire in Restoration England

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    At Zero Point
    Book Description:

    At Zero Pointpresents an entirely new way of looking at Restoration culture, discourse, and satire. The book locates a rupture in English culture and epistemology not at the end of the eighteenth century (when it occurred in France) but at the end of the seventeenth century. Rose Zimbardo's hypothesis is based on Hans Blumenberg's concept of "zero point" -- the moment when an epistemology collapses under the weight of questions it has itself raised and simultaneously a new epistemology begins to construct itself. Zimbardo demonstrates that the Restoration marked both the collapse of the Renaissance order and the birth of modernism (with its new conceptions of self, nation, gender, language, logic, subjectivity, and reality). Using satire as the site for her investigation, Zimbardo examines works by Rochester, Oldham, Wycherley, and the early Swift for examples of Restoration deconstructive satire that, she argues, measure the collapse of Renaissance epistemology. Constructive satire, as exemplified in works by Dryden, has at its discursive center the "I" from which all order arises to be projected to the external world. No other book treats Restoration culture or satire in this way.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5858-7
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-21)

    Until the resurgence of interest in Restoration studies that has taken place in the last fifteen or so years we understood the Restoration period and its literature in one of two ways. On the one hand, we have seen the period in terms of some notion of historic or literary evolution, as a prelude or preamble to the crowning achievements of the eighteenth century. So, for example, we have thought of Behn’sOroonokoas an Ur-novel foreshadowing the “true” novels of Richardson and ofMacFlecknoeas a not yet perfectDundad.We consider the roughness of Oldham’s satire “retrograde,” and...

  5. ONE “From Words to Experimental Philosophy”: Language and Logic at Restoration Zero Point
    (pp. 22-40)

    Following Blumenberg, I have named as “zero point” the moment in late seventeenth century English culture wherein medieval/Renaissance epistemology collapsed under the weight of questions it had itself raised and simultaneously the new epistemology of modernism was constructed. We have briefly considered some implications of the process in discussing the turn to mimetic discourse in the Introduction. To appreciate the full extent of the epistemological break, however, we must consider the ways in which so radical a paradigm shift changed conceptualization and reasoning itself. In his essay, “On the Possibility of Generating Aesthetic Messages in an Edenic Language,” Umberto Eco...

  6. TWO The Semiotics of Restoration Deconstructive Satire
    (pp. 41-58)

    With the exception of David Vieth’s pioneer work and the more recent readings of Dustin Griffin, Kevin Cope, and Barbara Everett,¹ one may safely say that the universally accepted view of Restoration satire is that expressed by Raman Selden, who says,

    It is significant that the leading satirists of the day (Buder, Rochester, Oldham and Dryden) all ridicule deviations from a strongly held norm in the spheres of philosophy, religion, politics, or literature. It is true that the skeptical Butler and the Hobbesian Rochester themselves depart from that Augustan norm of rationality which was to be expressed definitively by Locke...

  7. THREE No “I” and No “Eye”
    (pp. 59-100)

    Despite the warning Maynard Mack gave us over forty years ago we continue to labor under the misconception that the writer of satire and the speaker of satire are the same, or at least that the speaker reflects some aspects of the writer’s “personality.”¹ But the speaker of satire is a rhetorical strategy—whether, as in Restoration satire, s/he is a target, a mask, an empty space, or by turns all three; or whether, as in eighteenth-century satire, he is “I,” a like-minded man of reason and common sense. The eighteenth-century concerned citizen, who stands at the center of a...

  8. FOUR Genders, Sexualities, and Discourse at Restoration Zero Point
    (pp. 101-131)

    Foucault has said, “Things attain to existence in so far as they are able to form the elements of a signifying system.”¹ In the atmosphere following the “Glorious Revolution” of 1689—a social atmosphere dominated by the Societies for the Reformation of Manners and Morals—two phenomena “appeared” which to the consciousness of postrevolutionary Englishmen seemed to be entirelynewin English culture and also seemed to be foreign importations. Both phenomena had had widespread, verifiablehistorical existencein England before the Revolution and both had not only been known to exist, but had existed extensively in writing as well...

  9. FIVE The Discursively Central “I” and the Telescope of Discourse
    (pp. 132-169)

    According to Foucault, the central epistemological construct of the modern age is the conception “Man.” That construction, in my view, grew out of a late seventeenth-century coding that reformulated the idea of Self, invented “interior space,”¹ and relocated “truth” to that inner human arena. For Renaissance thinkers the inmost human self was furthest removed from God, the still center of the cosmicharrnonia;“Poor soul the center of my sinful earth,” Shakespeare’s sonnet laments. The human mind, as we have seen, was the mirror of truth only when it was burnished to reflect metaphysical “characters” inherent in itself, in language,...

    (pp. 170-171)

    Lacan calls language “the world of words that creates the world of things.”¹ This book has tried to show that the world of words was a world destroyed and a world reborn in the cataclysmic epistemological rupture that occurred in England in the Restoration period. The modern world of things—of trade, of empire, of technological invention, professionalism, and print culture—emerged out of that big bang. We ourselves, we twentieth-century people, were created by the explosion, with our linear logic, our conceptions of economic growth and productivity, with our discursive delineations, such as “the developing nations,” “the Dow Jones...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 172-189)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 190-204)