Theatres and Encyclopedias in Early Modern Europe

Theatres and Encyclopedias in Early Modern Europe

by William N. West
     
 

ISBN-10: 0521030617

ISBN-13: 9780521030618

Pub. Date: 08/28/2006

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

In early modern Europe, before a "theatre" was a playhouse, it was an encyclopedia. In this book William N. West explores what "theatre" meant to medieval and Renaissance writers and critics, and places Renaissance drama, for the first time, within the powerfully influential context of the encyclopedic writings which were being produced at the time. Recent criticism…  See more details below

Overview

In early modern Europe, before a "theatre" was a playhouse, it was an encyclopedia. In this book William N. West explores what "theatre" meant to medieval and Renaissance writers and critics, and places Renaissance drama, for the first time, within the powerfully influential context of the encyclopedic writings which were being produced at the time. Recent criticism has recognized that the culture of early modern Europe was a theatre culture, fascinated by performance of all kinds, but it was also an encyclopedic culture, obsessed with collecting and sorting knowledge. Early encyclopedias presented themselves as textual theatres, in which everything knowable could be represented in concrete, visible form. Medieval and Renaissance plays, similarly, took encyclopedic themes as their topics: the mysteries of nature, universal history, the world of learning. But instead of transmitting authorized knowledge quickly and unambiguously, as it was supposed to, the theatre created a situation in which ordinary experience could become a communicable source of authority.

By the mid seventeenth century, the theatre had become the model for the reformation of the encyclopedia and the encyclopedia for the theatre, as knowledge itself came to be seen as a kind of performance. West covers a wide range of works, from the canonical encyclopedic texts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance to Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Jonson's The Alchemist, and Bacon's Novum Organum, and provides a fascinating picture of the cultural and intellectual life of the period.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521030618
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
08/28/2006
Series:
Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture Series, #44
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.71(d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Acknowledgments
Note on texts
Introduction: Circles of learning1
1The space of the encyclopedia14
2The idea of a theatre43
3Tricks of vision, truths of discourse: Illustration, ars combinatoria, and authority79
4Holding the mirror up to nature?: The humanist theatre beside itself111
5The show of learning and the performance of knowledge: Humors, Epigrams, and "an universal store"143
6Francis Bacon's theatre of Orpheus: "Literate experience" and experimental science193
Notes224
Bibliography274
Index291

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