Social Flight and Literary Form in Early Modern England

Robert Darcy

Early Modern Cultural Studies Series

282 pages
1 illustration, index


January 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Misanthropoetics explores efforts by Renaissance writers to represent social flight and withdrawal as a fictional escape from the incongruous demands of culture. Through the invented term of its title, this book investigates the literary misanthrope in a number of key examples from Shakespeare, Jonson, Spenser, and the satirical milieu of Marston to exemplify the seemingly unresolvable paradoxes of social life.

In Shakespeare’s England a burgeoning urban population and the codification of social controls drove a new imaginary of revolt and flight in the figure of the literary misanthrope. This figure of disillusionment became an experiment in protesting absurd social demands, pitting friendship and family against prudent economies, testimonies of durable love against erosions of historical time, and stable categories of gender against the breakdown and promiscuity of language.

Misanthropoetics chronicles the period’s own excoriating critique of the illusion of resolution fostered within a social world beleaguered by myriad pressures and demands. This study interrogates form as a means not toward order but toward the impasse of irresolution, to detecting and declaring the social function of life as inherently incongruous. Robert Darcy applies questions of phenomenology and psychoanalysis, deconstruction and chaos theory to observe how the great deployers of literary form lost confidence that it could adhere to clear and stable rules of engagement, even as they tried desperately to shape and preserve it.


Author Bio

Robert Darcy is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.


“A fascinating and valuable topic, and one that has not been previously well studied. The figure of the misanthrope and his relationship to and flight from society is well worth exploring. Darcy writes with great fluency and wit.”—Alan Stewart, co–general editor of The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature

Table of Contents

Introduction: Definition at the Limits of Form 
1. Models Not to Copy: Timon of Athens, Knowledge, and the Performance of the Misanthrope
2. Midas’s Food: Paternity, Incest, and the Renaissance Economy in The Merchant of Venice and Pericles
3. Retreats of Despair and Devotion: Choice, Faith, and Exile in Book 4 of The Faerie Queene
4. “Put This in Latin for Me”: Alienated Speech and Phenomenological Discourse in Ben Jonson’s Epicoene
Epilogue: Pygmalion’s Image and Misanthropoetics in Coda
Works Cited


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