Jonson and the Contexts of His Time
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About this Item
Title: Jonson and the Contexts of His Time
Publisher: Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, PA
Publication Date: 1994
Binding: Hard Cover
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
About this title
Ben Jonson was one of the most important writers of the English Renaissance, and this study both reflects and contributes to the growing focus on the concrete details of his art and career. By examining specific works, particular historical circumstances, and complex relations with various individuals, author Robert C. Evans tries to locate Jonson's writings in the contexts that helped shape their artistry.
This book presumes that the more one knows about Jonson's various contexts, the more richly one can appreciate the complicated significance of the texts he produced. In fact, a major purpose of the book is the presentation of new archival data. The individual chapters all assume that Jonson could not ignore his relations with other people and the effects that those relations might have had on his life and writings.
The first chapter raises explicitly many of the questions involved in the historical study of literature, contributing to recent dialogue about the meaning and value of the so-called New Historicism. This chapter also offers one of the few sustained examinations of one of Jonson's most typical and significant poems, the epistle to Edward Sackville.
Chapter 2 suggests why Jonson's relations with rivals and patrons were particularly significant. It discusses one of his most important rivalries - the "poetomachia" - and its significance for the early years of his life as a writer. The chapter then jumps to the end of Jonson's career and emphasizes works he addressed to the Earl of Newcastle, one of his most important later patrons. This initial emphasis on patronage and rivalry recurs in one way or another in all the subsequent chapters, which follow a roughly chronological scheme.
Chapter 3 looks at the earliest and perhaps still the best of Jonson's great plays, Volpone, and explores new evidence suggesting that Jonson may have used this comedy to mock a powerful and wellknown contemporary. Chapter 4 explores The Devil is an Ass (1616) and attempts to suggest the very complicated political and social circumstances in which it was enmeshed. Chapter 5 tries to show how the important masque entitled Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue offered a detailed response to another aristocratic entertainment written a few months earlier, and chapter 6 surveys the poet's apparently contentious relations with the highly talented Thomas Campion.
Chapters 7 and 8 focus on the closing years of Jonson's career. They explore his little-known friendship with Joseph Webbe, an important language theorist whose ideas were quite controversial at the time, and examine Jonson's relations with significant Caroline patrons in an attempt to show the complicated ways in which the patronage "system" - so often discussed in the abstract could operate in actuality. A brief afterword summarizes some of the general critical assumptions on which all the preceding chapters are based.
Robert C. Evans is I. B. Young Professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he has taught since 1982. In 1984 he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University, where he held Weaver and Whiting fellowships as well as a University fellowship. In later years his research was supported by fellowships from the Newberry Library, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Mellon Foundation, the Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, and the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
In 1982 he was awarded the G. E. Bentley Prize and in 1989 was selected Professor of the Year for Alabama by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. At AUM he has received the Faculty Excellence Award and has been named Distinguished Research Professor, Distinguished Teaching Professor, and University Alumni Professor. Most recently he was named Professor of the Year by the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English.
He is one of three editors of the Ben Jonson Journal and is a contributing editor to the John Donne Variorum Edition.
He is the author or editor of over fifty books (on such topics as Ben Jonson, Martha Moulsworth, Kate Chopin, John Donne, Frank O'Connor, Brian Friel, Ambrose Bierce, Amy Tan, early modern women writers, pluralist literary theory, literary criticism, twentieth-century American writers, American novelists, Shakespeare, and seventeenth-century English literature. He is also the author of roughly three hundred published or forthcoming essays or notes (in print and online) on a variety of topics, especially dealing with Renaissance literature, critical theory, women writers, short fiction, and literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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