The Uses of the Canon: Elizabethan Literature and Contemporary Theory


An important contribution to the current rethinking of "English," and to the reconsideration of Shakespeare's role within it, this book focuses on the emergence of the New Historicism, clarifying a number of key positions in the criticism of the past fifteen years. The essays subject many of New Historicism's most challenging claims to rigorous analysis, distinguish sharply between its American and British versions, and assess the causes and consequences of its politicization of literary studies. The theoretical and political issues at stake in current debates are clearly examined, and the uses served by the canonical texts at their center are re-examined within a broad cultural and historical perspective. Offering fresh readings of a number of classic texts--including Hamlet, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, Shakespeare's sonnets, More's Utopia, Donne's poetry, and Conrad's Heart of Darkness--this overview of contemporary critical theory and practice provides a deepened understanding of the complex and changing functions of the canon itself.


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