By Philip Schwyzer
This examine attracts at the concept and perform of archaeology to improve a brand new viewpoint at the literature of the Renaissance. Philip Schwyzer explores the fascination with photographs of excavation, exhumation, and wreck that runs via literary texts together with Spenser's Faerie Queene, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, Donne's sermons and lyrics, and Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall. Miraculously preserved corpses, ruined monasteries, Egyptian mummies, and Yorick's cranium all determine during this research of the early glossy archaeological mind's eye. The pessimism of the interval is summed up within the haunting motif of the gorgeous corpse that, as soon as touched, crumbles to airborne dirt and dust. Archaeology and literary reports are themselves items of the Renaissance. even if the 2 disciplines have occasionally seen each other as competitors, they percentage a special and unsettling intimacy with the strains of previous life--with the phrases the useless wrote, sang, or heard, with the items they made, held, or lived inside of. Schwyzer argues that on the root of either varieties of scholarship lies the forbidden wish to wake up (and communicate with) the lifeless. even if most unlikely or absurd this wish will be, it is still a primary resource of either moral accountability and aesthetic excitement.
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Extra resources for Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature
As the judicious antiquary Thomas Hearne observed in the eighteenth century, ‘conjectures may be allow’d . . where there is no inscription to direct, and a greater liberty of fancy is allowable in such cases than where we have plain ⁴² Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks, Theatre/Archaeology (London: Routledge, 2001), 130. ⁴³ Ruth Tringham, ‘Households with Faces: The Challenge of Gender in Prehistoric Architectural Remains’, in Joan M. Gero and Margaret W. ), Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 124.
Hodder and Hutson, Reading the Past, 16. ’⁴² Others, blending fact with ﬁction, give voice to the dead in monologues or vignettes, appended to or interwoven with more traditional site analysis. From the charred Neolithic huts of Opovo, which appear to have been burnt down intentionally at the end of their use-life, Ruth Tringham reconstructs the experience of a young widow, blissfully cremating her former home. ‘Mustn’t let the ﬁre die, or he’ll come back . . Burn his pots! Kill his stuff!
The eery equilibrium of these lines might serve as a model for the elusive balance archaeologists and literary critics must ideally bring to their work with the traces of the past. Without this balance, the possibilities for scholarship are drearily familiar. On the one hand, naïve and ahistorical admiration for the lustre of the pearls; on the other, the smug observation that what look so shiny from a distance are really a dead man’s eyeballs. We have surely had enough of both. O N T H E F RO N T I E R S O F D E S I R E : H E A R I N G O B J E C TS , TO U C H I N G T E X TS So far, I have argued that archaeology and literary studies share a deﬁnitive concern with and responsibility to the traces of the dead.
Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature by Philip Schwyzer