Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance: Barbarian Errors

Overview

During the English Renaissance, the figure of the classical barbarian—identified by ineloquent speech that marked him as a cultural outsider—was recovered for stereotyping Africans. This book advances the idea that language, and not only color or religion, functioned as an important racial code. This study also reveals the way in which England’s strategic projection of a “barbarous” language was meant to enhance its own image at the expense of the early modern African. Ian Smith makes use of the sixteenth-century...

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Overview

During the English Renaissance, the figure of the classical barbarian—identified by ineloquent speech that marked him as a cultural outsider—was recovered for stereotyping Africans. This book advances the idea that language, and not only color or religion, functioned as an important racial code. This study also reveals the way in which England’s strategic projection of a “barbarous” language was meant to enhance its own image at the expense of the early modern African. Ian Smith makes use of the sixteenth-century preoccupation with language rehabilitation to tell the larger story of an anxious nation redirecting attention away from its own marginal, minority status by racial scapegoating.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In this lively, wide-ranging, and sometimes controversial study, Smith achieves the signal feat of breathing new life into the extended debate about the understanding of ‘race’ in Shakespeare’s England. His book is particularly illuminating in its account of how the Renaissance absorbed and adapted classical ideas of otherness, and in its exploration of the part played by language and the rhetorical tradition in early modern constructions of savagery and barbarism.”—Michael Neill, Emeritus Professor, University of Auckland and editor of The Oxford Shakespeare Othello

“Smith's Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance represents an important departure from the emphasis on visual representation in recent studies of race in early modern England. Instead, Smith's focus is on language as the key to racial difference, and that language, literary and otherwise, is at once undergoing remarkable change and invariably indebted to the classical past. Smith compels his readers to recognize that race is not merely a fashionable topic but a key component in Renaissance humanist thought. This bold and innovative study will be essential reading for graduate students and faculty in the field.”—Dympna Callaghan, Dean's Professor in the Humanities, Syracuse University and author of Shakespeare Without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230620452
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 12/8/2009
  • Series: Early Modern Cultural Studies Series
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Smith is an Associate Professor of English at Lafayette College and has published on early modern drama and postcolonial literature. He is currently preparing a book on early modern English blackface theater.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Barbarous African, Barbarous English, and the Transactions of Race * Classical Precedents * Race in Perspective * Barbarian Genealogies * Instructing the English Nation
• Shakespeare’s Africans: Performing Cultural Whiteness * Epilogue: Imperialism’s Legacy, or the “Language of the Criminal”

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