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The rhetoric of stasis, gesture and dance in renaissance literature

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:07 authored by Melissa L. Hudler
Focusing attention on a neglected aspect of Renaissance scholarship, this study aims to illuminate the rhetorical role of the body in Renaissance literature by exploring the rhetorical nature of three forms of corporeality: stasis, gesture, and dance. Generally speaking, rhetoric of the body is not lacking in early modern scholarship. However, consideration of the literary body as a rhetorical entity that not only articulates but also creates meaning is indeed a neglected area. The body-as-text paradigm that grounds performance studies provides for a unique and nuanced approach to literary text analysis. The methodology employed in this thesis combines a historical and text-based approach, with substantial attention given to classical rhetoric because of its awareness of the rhetorical capacity of the body. The rhetoric of stasis is explored in Sir John Davies’ poem Orchestra and in three works by Shakespeare: The Winter’s Tale, The Rape of Lucrece, and Coriolanus. In this chapter, trauma is presented as a framing mechanism for the characters’ static presence. Gesture and its rhetorical quality are studied through distinctive analyses of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, The Rape of Lucrece, and Titus Andronicus. An analysis of Ben Jonson’s Epicoene provides a comic close to this study of gesture. This chapter also has as its framework the concept of trauma, presenting it as either a cause for or effect of gesture. Finally, the rhetoric of dance is examined in further analyses of Orchestra and The Winter’s Tale and also in Ben Jonson’s Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue. The literary approach to the rhetorical study of stasis, gesture, and dance taken in this study includes its dramaturgical and compositional functions, providing for a new lens through which to view instances of corporeality in Renaissance literature. This project attends to the early modern awareness and understanding of the rhetorical capacity and force of the body, and does so in a way that allows the speaking body to be examined within original contexts, thus bridging literary and performance analysis.



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