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Look Inside Theatres and Encyclopedias in Early Modern Europe

Theatres and Encyclopedias in Early Modern Europe


Part of Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: November 2006
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521030618

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About the Authors
  • In this 2003 book West explores what 'theatre' meant to medieval and Renaissance writers and places Renaissance drama within the influential context of the encyclopedic writings produced at the time. It was an encyclopedic culture, obsessed with sorting knowledge, and 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 unambiguously, as it was supposed to be, the theatre created a situation in which ordinary experience could become a source of authority. West covers a wide range of works, from the encyclopedic texts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance to Marlowe's Dr Faustus, Jonson's The Alchemist, and Bacon's Novum Organum, to provide a fascinating picture of the cultural life of the period.

    • Considers the relationship between the development of the Encyclopedia as a collection of all known knowledge and how theatre was written and performed at the time
    • Discusses several widely taught texts: Marlowe's Dr Faustus, Jonson's The Alchemist, among others, in terms of theatre and Encyclopedia connection
    • Looks at concept of 'theatre' within several cultural events and genres: in the arts, science, and literature
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ''… At the heart of every encyclopaedic effort is the desire to marvel,' West comments, and this sense of awe is mirrored in his own engaging explication of the processes of wonder construction. It comes out through the densely argued examples and the splendid illustrations of fantastic beasts and performances spaces. Curiositas, 'the lust of the eyes', which links passion for knowledge to the watching of 'shows', works its dangerous magic through the majority of this fascinating book.' Journal of New Theatre Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2006
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521030618
    • length: 312 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.488kg
    • contains: 22 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Note on texts
    Introduction: circles of learning
    1. The space of the encyclopedia
    2. The idea of a theatre
    3. Tricks of vision, truths of discourse: illustration, ars combinatoria, and authority
    4. Holding the mirror up to nature?: the humanist theatre beside itself
    5. The show of learning and the performance of knowledge: humors, Epigrams, and 'an universal store'
    6. Francis Bacon's theatre of Orpheus: 'literate experience' and experimental science

  • Author

    William N. West, University of Colorado, Boulder
    William West has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and the University of Nevada, Reno, and is currently assistant Professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has published on encyclopedism, the arts of memory, symbolic economies, and the epistemology of early modern performance in journals such as English Literary Renaissance, Renaissance Drama, and Comparative Literature. He is currently at work on a book on the significance of confusion and misunderstanding in early modern drama.

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