This Distracted Globe: Worldmaking in Early Modern Literature

This Distracted Globe: Worldmaking in Early Modern Literature

This Distracted Globe: Worldmaking in Early Modern Literature

This Distracted Globe: Worldmaking in Early Modern Literature

Synopsis

Worldmaking takes many forms in early modern literature and thus challenges any single interpretive approach. The essays in this collection investigate the material stuff of the world in Spenser, Cary, and Marlowe; the sociable bonds of authorship, sexuality, and sovereignty in Shakespeare and others; and the universal status of spirit, gender, and empire in the worlds of Vaughan, Donne, and the dastan (tale) of Chouboli, a Rajasthani princess. Together, these essays
make the case that to address what it takes to make a world in the early modern period requires the kinds of thinking exemplified by theory.

Excerpt

The essays in this volume were prompted by “Writing Sex and Other Matters with Jonathan Goldberg,” a conference held at Brown University on September 21–22, 2012. Papers presented at the conference lie behind about half of the essays found in the pages that follow. These essays, we found, spoke to essays offered subsequently by other contributors, often in surprising, unplanned ways, across markedly different scholarly styles. This confluence furthered the prospect of a collection, of which this book is the result. The various contributions take up questions of materiality—of bodies, of writing—that project and encompass the multiple worlds we inhabit and from which we imagine our world differently, a distracted relationality, to recall Hamlet’s phrase about the globe that has come to title this collection of essays. Hamlet’s “globe” is a figure for the world, for his head, and for the stage on which he performs and speaks the words provided for him in a script he is at that moment claiming to attempt to remember and inscribe within. These concerns about multiple materialities reflect an abiding interest for Goldberg as a literary theorist and prime mover of queer theory, but it is especially gratifying that a conference in his honor helped to produce scholarship with a freestanding life of its own, for dynamic generativity is at the heart of his scholarly and pedagogical ethos.

In their different ways, these essays reflect the worldmaking power of Renaissance literature. As the entry in the recent Dictionary of Untranslatables reminds us, world is not a term with singular meaning. It includes cosmological, ontological, theological, chronological, sociological, anthropological, and existential senses. As Roland Greene observes in the “World” section of his recent Five Words, an exploration of five generative concepts in early modernity, the questions that move through world in the period were provoked by the scientific and philosophic theories of multiple worlds as well as by colonialist ventures into the so-called New World that threw the relations between subject formation and worldmaking into question. “World” is about relations between the whole and the partial, the . . .

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