How to Do Things with Hard Words: The Uses of Classical Borrowings in the English Renaissance

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Overview

Title
How to Do Things with Hard Words: The Uses of Classical Borrowings in the English Renaissance
Contributors
Ballentine, Brian C. (creator)
Haynes, Kenneth (director)
Newman, Karen (reader)
Kahn, Coppélia (reader)
Krause, Virginia (reader)
Brown University. Comparative Literature (sponsor)
Copyright Date
01-01-2009
Abstract
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.
Keywords
Renaissance
England
Language
hard words
Shakespeare
Milton
Bacon
Browne
Notes
Thesis (Ph.D.) -- Brown University (2010)
Extent
vii, 209 p.