How to Do Things with Hard Words: The Uses of Classical Borrowings in the English Renaissance
Ballentine, Brian C. (creator)
Haynes, Kenneth (director)
Newman, Karen (reader)
Kahn, Coppélia (reader)
Krause, Virginia (reader)
Brown University. Comparative Literature (sponsor)
This dissertation brings into focus the interactions of Renaissance English literature with foreign, especially classical, languages and cultures. The incorporation of foreign
words into early modern literature is typically viewed as part of the rise of the vernacular and as evidence of incipient nationalism. Amidst this focus on nationalism, scholarship has largely
the complex statements made by linguistic borrowing about the relationships of English writers to classical discourses, foreign cultures, and social hierarchies that are often in tension with
nationalism and the English vernacular. In their resistance to assimilation and translation, borrowings perform their meanings and work as cultural hieroglyphs. They operate as literary and
cultural symbols of the presence of classical and foreign discourse within English literature. Further, I argue, their opaqueness often makes them subversive. For Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, and
John Donne, borrowed and coined words activate a range of social anxieties. For Francis Bacon, borrowings allow the continuation of classical discourses; for his follower Thomas Browne, they
serve as the catalysts that rupture this discourse. For Shakespeare, they heighten the eroticism of language by masking and masquerading its meaning. For John Milton, they enable an estranged
and fallen view of the present and historical worlds. This project treats vernacular borrowings not just as language that now seems familiar, but as language that was intentionally strange and
foreign in its historical moment in order to signal dialogue with other languages and literatures. In doing so, it opens up the historicity and social impact of language change that has been
lost by reading Renaissance English anachronistically as what it has become, not what it was becoming.
Ballentine, Brian C.,
"How to Do Things with Hard Words: The Uses of Classical Borrowings in the English Renaissance"
Comparative Literature Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.