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Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History: Essays in Honor of Nancy S. Struever and Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe. (Reviews).

Joseph Marino and Melinda Schlit., eds., Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History: Essays in Honor of Nancy S. Struever

Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2000. xiii + 509 pp. $99. ISBN: 1-58046-062-3.

Victoria Kahn and Lorna Hutson., eds., Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe

New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001. ix + 355 pp. $40. ISBN: 0-300-08485-4.

Collections of essays pose problems for reviewers as for readers. Not only do the contributions they contain vary in quality, sometimes quite significantly, but they also go off in many different directions, often so many that any sense of unity is lost. Even when a collection is organized about a topic, that topic may be defined in an exceedingly broad manner, as is the case with the first of the volumes to be reviewed here; or the stated subject may be lost sight of by some of the contributors, as is the case with the second. Nevertheless, these two collections have the virtues of their defects: if they lack a certain coherence, they compensate by offering a number of very fine essays on important topics. Both books testify to the richness of scholarly work on the period being done in many fields.

Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History is a Festschrift which does indeed honor Nancy Struever, whose work has had a large impact on a variety of fields within Renaissance studies. This variety is reflected by the range of essays included in a very compendious volume. The first of its three parts, "Renaissance Humanism," contains ten essays. This part defines its subject quite loosely, starting off with pieces that investigate canonical Humanist authors such as Bruni and Valla, but ending with essays on Ariosto and Shakespeare that have almost nothing to do with Humanism. There are essays in this section by Edward Cranz on the difference between Cicero's and Leonardo Bruni's conceptions of the studia humanitatis, by Thomas Izbicki on Nicholas of Cusa, by Charles Trinkaus on Machiavelli and Humanist anthropology, by Christine Smith and Joseph E O'Connor on the classical library assembled by Pope Nicholas V, by Joseph Marino on Castiglione's ideal courtly language, by Marjorie O'Rourke Boy le on communication by visual signing, and by Elizabeth Watson on Ariosto's Cinque canti. One of the more rewarding pieces is Salvatore Camporeale's essay on the debate between Lorenzo Valla and Poggio Bracciolini aver how to revive the culture of the ancient world, a debate revealing Valla's more thoroughgoing historicism which was to have a major impact on Erasmus' biblical scholarship. In a fine article, "Caterina of Siena and the Legacy of Humanism," Jane Tylus presents Saint Catherine as a bridge between an older Humanism, which was a male bastion and stressed civic involvement, and a newer one, which embraced a more feminized form of piety involving the public performance of charitable acts, a traditionally female activity. Finally, in a magisterial essay, Thomas Greene writes about ceremonial closure in Shakespeare's plays, noting how he uses ritual-like events as his plays end in order to create a temporary community for the audience and how, as people became less responsive to ritual in the seventeen th century, playwrights stopped writing ceremonial closes -- a sign of the demystification of the liturgical sign that separates early modern culture from all former societies which organized themselves around ritual occasions.

The second section of the Struever Festschrift contains live essays by art historians, including Melinda Schlitt's analysis of two frescoes by Vasari and Salviati as examples of what she calls a "rhetoric of exemplarity," Elizabeth Cropper's demonstration that aspects of the querelle des anciens et des modernes were anticipated in Alessandro Tassoni's Pensieri diversi of 1608, and Mary Pardo's complex piece that starts as an attempt to identify the "Masaccio" referred to in the dedication of Alberti's Della pittura and winds up as a richly detailed, historical contextualizing of that treatise and a striking interpretation of Alberri's notion that the goal of painting is the establishment of a civil relationship between the beholder and the artist. In a mote theoretical essay, Karen-Edis Barzman defines early modern spectacles as illusionistic discursive fields in which power manifests itself, but in which it may also be contested, and illustrates her ideas by examining paintings by Masaccio and Correggio, the city-planning of Rome, and the placement of ex-votos in churches. Finally, there is Michael Ann Holly's "The Rhetoric of Remembrance," the most theoretical piece in the collection. In it Holly argues that all historical writing is marked by melancholy, or what Freud called unresolved mourning, because it is animated by the hope of recovering the past while aware of the impossibility of doing so. Holly analyzes the work of Michael Baxandall as exemplary because he recognizes that the narrative reconstruction of the past is always mediated through language and by our location in the present, and that any description of a work of art is a representation not so much of the work itself as of our thinking about it.

The last section of the collection, "Rhetorics, Philosophies, and Histories," is, as its title suggests, something of a hodgepodge. Only three pieces in it concern the Renaissance. John Ward offers a reflection on Nancy Struever's contribution to the history of rhetoric, which he characterizes as a discipline with a textual tradition in the Middle Ages, but sees, following Struever, as becoming an epistemology, a way to order reality and create meaning, in the Renaissance. Jean Dietz Moss writes about Ludovico Carbone and the Christian grand style. And J. G. A. Pocock shows how Thomas May, who wrote the first history of the English Civil War, was preoccupied with civil war in all of his historical works throughout his career. The other five essays move beyond the Renaissance and include Lawrence Klein's piece on how London periodicals from around 1700 helped redefine philosophy as a "polite" enterprise; Peter Fenves' analysis of Moses Mendelssohn's Jerusalem; Marc Fumaroli's argument that Chateaubriand was a version of St. Augustine's Christian rhetor; Marvin Becker's description of how the conception of civil society arose first in Scotland after 1750; and Hayden White's theoretical piece on Primo Levi examining the way that modern historians must become part of -- by bearing witness to -- the history they write.

By contrast with the Struever Festschrift, Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe arouses expectations, by means of its title alone, that the essays contained in it will indeed be parts of a more unified whole. Those expectations get complicated almost at once, however, when the editors declare in the introduction that "the point of the present collection . . . is ... the investigation of the relations between rhetorical or literary production and legal practice as these discursive fields conceptualized, or produced accounts of, human agency and subjectivity in the early modern period" (2). The editors' transformation of the "rhetoric" of their title into "rhetorical or literary production" here is strategic: it blurs the distinction between rhetoric and literature in order to widen the scope of the collection. For, of the thirteen pieces it contains, only those by Barbara Shapiro, Peter Goodrich, Jane Newman, and the two editors actually talk about rhetoric in conjunction with the law; indeed, rhetoric is r eally given very little attention in the collection as a whole. Moreover, most of the other essays are not really interdisciplinary at all, although interdisciplinarity is precisely what the title of the collection promises. Thus, the centrifugal pull of the essays in this collection is almost as great as it is in the Struever collection. This is not to say, however, that the essays it contains are without merit. On the contrary, they are for the most part quite rewarding.

Inspiring this collection is the fact that the law underwent a number of fundamental changes in the early modern period. First, whereas before then contracts were essentially a matter of the makers' relationship to God, who ensured that they would keep the faith they pledged, from the seventeenth century on contracts were judged according to the intentions of the parties involved, a conception that was related to the development of a notion of interiority in the period. Second, the conception of natural law changed from something God-given and deducible by reason to something that operated in an independent natural realm and could be arrived at by induction, like the laws of science. Finally, defenders of both absolutism and republicanism appealed in different ways to theories of law, whether contractual or natural, in order to bolster their claims.

Not surprisingly, the initial essay in the collection, by David Sacks, examines in detail the shift in the nature of contract law theory around 1600. Later, in a very rich essay which does, in fact, live up to the interdisciplinary promise of the collection, Luke Wilson also examines that shift and relates it to the work of Ben Jonson who famously opens Bartholomew Fair with an Induction in which a contract is set up between the author and the audience. Victoria Kahn takes up the subject of contract law theory as well, in a fine essay analyzing the contradiction in that theory over the will, which is centrally involved in the contract-maker's giving of consent and is seen as being both moral, a matter of rational calculation, and psychological, that is, the result of antecedent factors, and hence not a matter of reason at all. To deal with this contradiction, thinkers made consent a rational act of consenting to one's own passions. Kahn shows how these issues got formulated in England in writings on domestic duties and in the works of Milton and Hobbes, and how they inevitably wound up gendering the subject involved as male, albeit in very problematic ways.

This collection also contains essays by Barbara Shapiro on the relationship between aspects of classical rhetoric and English legal practices, by Carla Freccero on Marguerite de Navarre, and by Johann Sommerville on the medieval character of the works of Selden and Grotius. In a quite stimulating piece, Peter Goodrich argues that the history of the law has forgotten or excluded what he calls the "gay science" promoted in the late medieval courts of love in France which saw love as a matter of erotic pleasure and personal intimacy, assigned women elevated positions, and thus threatened both canon and Roman law, which consequently abetted its suppression. Alan Stewart writes about how homosexuality, as sodomy, became visible as a crime in the period only when connected to some other crime, in this case the bribery charges that brought about Francis Bacon's fall from power. Constance Jordan examines the way that Montaigne's scepticism led him to distrust all possible natural laws in favor of positive (i.e., hum anly instituted) ones and thus to establish a secular, albeit conservative, basis for the stare. Annabel Patterson analyzes the life and works of Algernon Sidney, noting how defense speeches in treason trials came to constitute an alternative legal canon for English dissenters. Kathy Eden discusses Erasmus' remodeling of his Adages for the Aldine edition of 1508, a remodeling designed to foreground the fact that his work was his private property which he offered to his readers identified as a group of like-minded friends. Jane Newman examines race in the works of Hugo Grotius, showing how he imagined the Christian Ethiopians not as barbarous Others, but as being just like Christian Europeans, provided one stripped away the "accidental" features of the Christianity they practiced. Finally, in one of the best essays in the collection, Lorna Hutson argues against the centrality usually granted to Ernst Kantorowicz's theory of the king's two bodies in analyses of Renaissance English thought on the body politic. H utson claims that one of Kantorowicz's chief sources, Edmund Plowden's Commentaries of 1571, was actually important in its own time for introducing into English common law Aristotle's notion of equity, a notion that led to the constitutional revolution of the seventeenth century and the English Civil War. Hutson then reads Shakespeare's second tetralogy of history plays as a reflection of this notion, an endorsement of the idea that the public good, embodied in the laws, is and must remain something separate from the king. Arguing against New Historicists and Cultural Materialists who see the plays as qualified endorsements of absolutism, Hutson stresses how they move from Richard's tyrannical misuse of the law in Richard II to Henry V's willingness to let his intentions be determined by the law (in the person of the Chief Justice) at the end of Henry 1W Part 2, thus making the tetralogy potentially subversive of monarchy's claim of absolute power.

Both of the collections reviewed here clearly have much to offer Renaissance scholars. Although neither one is really unified or fully coherent as a collection, both contain many fine essays that the readers of this journal working in many different specialties will find invaluable.
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Author:Rebhorn, Wayne A.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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