The Indistinct Human in Renaissance Literature. Jean E. Feerick and Vin Nardizzi

Crawford, Julie A.

As we now live in a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—and on a planet almost wholly transformed by humanity, many humanists are turning their attention to accounts of human beings living in different kinds of relationships with nature. Shannon’s The Accommodated Animal (2012), for example, looks at the process by which humans came to be tyrants over what had once been a “cosmopolity” of “living things.” The Indistinct Human is indebted to Shannon’s work—her essay “The Eight Animals in Shakespeare” serves as a “Head-Piece” to the volume — but it is also indebted to Aristotle’s account of the “ensouledness of all things” in De Anima. The editors’ own concerns — Vin Nardizzi is the author of Wooden Os: Shakespeare’s Theatres and England’s Trees (2013) and Jean E. Feerick of Strangers in Blood: Relocating Race in Renaissance Literature (2010) — indicate their interests in materiality in a broad sense, most notably in the relationship between human bodies and “the sentient and stony things that surround, inhabit and constitute” them. The volume’s introduction lays out the position of early modern humans in the wider sphere of creation: beneath the angels and above all other “creatures of this inferior world”, yet nonetheless only contingently and precariously distinct. “The potential for human indistinction,” the editors argue, “is the dark underside of Renaissance celebrations of man’s preeminent place within the cosmos”.

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Renaissance Quarterly

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Published Here
April 9, 2015