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The Hybrid Hero in Early Modern English Literature: A Synthesis of Classical and Contemplative Heroism

Description: In his Book of the Courtier, Castiglione appeals to the Renaissance notion of self-fashioning, the idea that individuals could shape their identity rather than relying solely on the influence of external factors such as birth, social class, or fate. While other early modern authors explore the practice of self-fashioning—Niccolò Machiavelli, for example, surveys numerous princes identifying ways they have molded themselves—Castiglione emphasizes the necessity of modeling one's-self after a variety of sources, "[taking] various qualities now from one man and now from another." In this way, Castiglione advocates for a self-fashioning grounded in a discriminating kind of synthesis, the generation of a new ideal form through the selective combination of various source materials. While Castiglione focuses on the moves necessary for an individual to fashion himself through this act of discriminatory mimesis, his views can explain the ways authors of the period use source material in the process of textual production. As poets and playwrights fashioned their texts, they did so by consciously combining various source materials in order to create not individuals, as Castiglione suggests, but characters to represent new cultural ideals and values. Early moderns viewed the process of textual, as well as cultural production, as a kind of synthesis. Creation through textual fusion is particularly common in early modern accounts of the heroic, in which authors synthesize classical conceptions of the hero, which privilege the completion of martial feats, and Christian notions of the heroic, based on the contemplative nature of Christ. In this dissertation, I demonstrate how Thomas Kyd in The Spanish Tragedy (1585), Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene (1590), William Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus (1594), and John Milton in A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle (1632) syncretized classical and Christian notions of the heroic ideal in order to comment upon and shape political, social, ...
Date: December 2017
Creator: Ponce, Timothy Matthew
Partner: UNT Libraries