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Doubt and Skepticism in Antiquity and the Renaissance

$108.00 (C)

  • Date Published: July 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107024656

$ 108.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This book is an interdisciplinary study of the forms and uses of doubt in works by Homer, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Cicero, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Montaigne. Based on close analysis of literary and philosophical texts by these important authors, Michelle Zerba argues that doubt is a defining experience in antiquity and the Renaissance, one that constantly challenges the limits of thought and representation. The wide-ranging discussion considers issues that run the gamut from tragic loss to comic bombast, from psychological collapse to skeptical dexterity, and from solitary reflection to political improvisation in civic contexts and puts Greek and Roman treatments of doubt into dialogue not only with sixteenth-century texts, but with contemporary works as well. Using the past to engage questions of vital concern to our time, Zerba demonstrates that although doubt sometimes has destructive consequences, it can also be conducive to tolerance, discovery, and conversation across sociopolitical boundaries.

    • Addresses a topic that is deeply rooted in the literature, philosophy and political thought of the Western tradition from its earliest stages
    • Examines fundamental questions about doubt through a wide variety of works including Homeric epic, Greek drama and Roman rhetorical theory to the plays of Shakespeare and the political thought of Machiavelli and Montaigne
    • Argues that although doubt can disrupt the foundations of personal identity and forms of social order, it can also stimulate exploration and discovery
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "… exceptionally well-executed interdisciplinary study … Muscular prose, keen insight, and breadth of vision distinguish this uncommonly perceptive effort … Highly recommended …"
    H. I. Einsohn, Choice

    "… an extremely well written and jargon-free book that demonstrates the advantages of an interdisciplinary form of interpretation … [It] should be of interest to scholars in very divergent fields of expertise, not just the speculative philosophers …"
    Geert Lernout, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    "Zerba guides her readers over the heavily trafficked terrain of Homer, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Cicero, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Montaigne in search of the doubleness in Western thinking that we call doubt."
    Kathy Eden, Common Knowledge

    "… enriches the evergrowing literature on the history of skepticism …"
    David L. Sedley, The European Legacy

    "Who should read this book? Everyone who loves the great books and finds skepticism appealing; everyone thrilled by the ambition of an argument spanning two millennia but anchored in the rhetoric of key passages; and everyone eager to persuade conservatives, who brandish these texts as their own in the culture wars, that "there was never a time before interpretation when certainty prevailed"."
    Anita Gilman Sherman, Renaissance Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2012
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107024656
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.57kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. 'Farewell the Tranquil Mind': Tragic Doubt in Homer's Iliad, Sophocles' Philoctetes, and Shakespeare's Othello:
    1. Achilles' doubt and the construction of a heroism-at-one-remove in Homer's Iliad
    2. Moral doubt and the contradictory claims of pity in Sophocles' Philoctetes
    3. 'Do as if for surety': doubt and delusions of certainty in Shakespeare's Othello
    Part II. Comic Skepticism and Polytropic Strategies in Homer's Odyssey, Aristophanes' Women of the Thesmophoria, and Shakespeare's As You Like It:
    4. Wandering Odysseus, pyrrhonist Penelope, and the return from alienation in Homer's Odyssey
    5. Parody, androgyny, and skeptical inversions of gender and genre in Aristophanes' Women of the Thesmophoria and Shakespeare's As You Like It
    Part III. Skepticism, Politics, and Rhetoric in the Works of Cicero, Machiavelli, and Montaigne:
    6. Skeptical constructions of identity in Roman and Renaissance humanism
    7. Academic skepticism and Cicero's republican politics
    8. A Ciceronian Machiavelli
    9. Montaigne's pyrrhonist politics.

  • Author

    Michelle Zerba, Louisiana State University
    Michelle Zerba is Associate Professor of English, Classics, and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University. She is the author of Tragedy and Theory: The Problem of Conflict since Aristotle (1988) and numerous articles on literature, rhetoric and philosophy in antiquity and the Renaissance.

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