Misanthropoetics: Social Flight and Literary Form in Early Modern England
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About the BookMisanthropoetics explores efforts by Renaissance writers to represent social flight and withdrawal as a fictional escape from the incongruous demands of culture. Through the invented term of its title, this book investigates the literary misanthrope in a number of key examples from Shakespeare, Jonson, Spenser, and the satirical milieu of Marston to exemplify the seemingly unresolvable paradoxes of social life.
In Shakespeare’s England a burgeoning urban population and the codification of social controls drove a new imaginary of revolt and flight in the figure of the literary misanthrope. This figure of disillusionment became an experiment in protesting absurd social demands, pitting friendship and family against prudent economies, testimonies of durable love against erosions of historical time, and stable categories of gender against the breakdown and promiscuity of language.
Misanthropoetics chronicles the period’s own excoriating critique of the illusion of resolution fostered within a social world beleaguered by myriad pressures and demands. This study interrogates form as a means not toward order but toward the impasse of irresolution, to detecting and declaring the social function of life as inherently incongruous. Robert Darcy applies questions of phenomenology and psychoanalysis, deconstruction and chaos theory to observe how the great deployers of literary form lost confidence that it could adhere to clear and stable rules of engagement, even as they tried desperately to shape and preserve it.
University of Nebraska Press
Darcy, Robert, "Misanthropoetics: Social Flight and Literary Form in Early Modern England" (2021). English Faculty Books and Monographs. 14.