[Review] Robert N. Watson, The Rest Is Silence: Death as Annihilation in the English Renaissance.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christopher T. Hodgkins, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Bacon wrote that "some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." I would add to his menu another kind that is worth consuming, but best taken with a grain of salt. Such a book is Robert N. Watson's study of Kyd, Shakespeare, Donne, and Herbert, The Rest Is Silence: Death as Annihilation in the English Renaissance. On the one hand, it is loaded with fresh and sometimes startling insights, and it is bracingly skeptical of reigning New Historicist certainties about the hegemonic Christianity of the English Renaissance, asserting rather that "[d]espite its ferocious displays of Christian conviction, Jacobean culture struggled with the suspicion that death was a complete and permanent annihilation of the self, not merely some latency of the body awaiting the Last Judgment" (p. 3). Thus Watson takes prolonged issue with "the first precept of New Historicist criticism-Jonathan Dollimore's claim that political virtue can arise only from the belief 'that there is no shared human essence ... no traits not the product of social forces at a particular historical juncture'" (p. 20). In Watson's initially Freudian, "neo-essentialist" rebuttal, the generations are united across the historical abyss by a common fear of the deepest abyss: the fear, to paraphrase Hamlet, that in that sleep of death no dreams may come.

Additional Information

George Herbert Journal 19.1-2 (1995): 102+.
Language: English
Date: 1995
Book review, Death, Afterlife, 17th century English literature

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