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Jonsonian Discrimination Michael McCanles

Jonsonian Discrimination

Michael McCanles

Published January 1st 1992
ISBN : 9780802059550
Hardcover
306 pages
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 About the Book 

At the heart of all Ben Jonsons nondramatic poetry, argues Michael McCanles, lies the concept of true nobility. Jonson sought to transform the inherited aristocracy of England into an aristocracy of humanist virtue in which he could claim a placeMoreAt the heart of all Ben Jonsons nondramatic poetry, argues Michael McCanles, lies the concept of true nobility. Jonson sought to transform the inherited aristocracy of England into an aristocracy of humanist virtue in which he could claim a place through his achievement of true nobility by the merits of his own intellectual labours. In this survey of all Jonsons non-dramatic poetry, McCanles identifies a range of dialectical and contrastive forms through which this concern was rendered poetically. He analyses the contrastive forms in discussions of Jonsons prosody, his use of homonymy and synonymy, and of metaphor. He coins the term contrastivity to encompass the play of semantic choices directed by Jonsons use of suprasegmentals at the local level of poetic technique, and the readers process of reading wherein he or she confirms the validity of a poems statements by recreating the process of selection/rejection that went into its creation. Thematically, McCanles suggests that the vera nobilitas argument is in fact four distinct arguments in various ways mutually contradictory, collectively both supporting and subverting aristocratic and monarchical hierarchies. Thus he finds Jonson constrained to employ this argument in addressing aristocratic friends, patrons, and the monarch himself, with careful diplomacy in order to negate the subversive dimensions of his own advice and praise. Employing the resources generated by the theoretical analysis of contrastivity in the first chapter, McCanles demonstrates the considerable complexity of Jonsons poetry, generally underestimated in current scholarship.