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Angus Gowland investigates the theory of melancholy and its many applications in the Renaissance by means of a wide-ranging contextual analysis of Robert Burton's encyclopaedic Anatomy of Melancholy (first published in 1621). Approaching the Anatomy as the culmination of early modern medical, philosophical and spiritual inquiry about melancholy, Gowland examines the ways in which Burton exploited the moral psychology central to the Renaissance understanding of the condition to construct a critical vision of his intellectual and political environment. In the first sustained analysis of the evolving relationship of the Anatomy (in the various versions issued between 1621 and 1651) to late Renaissance humanist learning and early seventeenth-century England and Europe, Gowland corrects the prevailing view of the work as an unreflective digest of other authors' opinions, and reveals the Anatomy's character as a polemical literary engagement with the live intellectual, religious and political issues of its day.Read more
- Presents and analyses Renaissance ideas about melancholy within a range of historical contexts
- Was the first historical study of this canonical work of English literature since 1959
- Was the first comprehensive analysis and interpretation of the modifications made by the author to the different editions of the Anatomy issued between 1621 and 1651
Reviews & endorsements
"This is an illuminating study of The Anatomy of Melancholy that, while it recognizes the eccentricities of Burton's book, succeeds brilliantly in locating the Anatomy in its cultural moment."
Samuel Glen Wong, Renaissance QuarterlySee more reviews
"This is Angus Gowland's first book, which is surprising, since it is stunningly good...this is a very fine book deserving a place close to the works of Fritz Saxl, Erin Panofsky, and Rudolf and Margot Wittkower."
Winfried Schleiner, American Historical Review
"Of all the new books published this year, I confess to learning the most from this one, and appreciating it accordingly...required reading for all serious seventeenth century scholars."
Catherine Gimelli Martin, University of Memphis, Studies in English Literature
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- Date Published: August 2011
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107403017
- length: 358 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
- weight: 0.48kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. The medical theory of melancholy
2. Dissecting medical learning
3. Melancholy and divinity
4. The melancholy body politic
5. Utopia, consolation, and withdrawal
Conclusion: Robert Burton's melancholy
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