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Shakespeare’s Mineral Emotions

Shakespeare’s Mineral Emotions

(p.253) Nine Shakespeare’s Mineral Emotions
Renaissance Posthumanism
Lara Bovilsky
Fordham University Press

“Shakespeare’s Mineral Emotions” goes to the heart of Renaissance humanism and shows it to be much stonier and silent—but no less passionate—than historians ever realized. If speech was considered a (or the) distinguishing feature of humanity and oratory was thus, in a sense, a measure of one’s humanity for Cicero and his early modern imitators, then this reading of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar reveals that frequent recourse to stony imagery need not indicate apathy but, rather, an array of emotions and a strong sense of commonality. Though the Renaissance has been associated, since Burckhardt, with the rise of “the individual,” Julius Caesar experiments instead with group psychology figured through alliances with nonhuman repositories of affect like stones. The wane of the idea that ancient literature has a civilizing influence—strengthens the polis, promotes active citizenship—may divide Shakespeare's England, which looked back to Cicero's Rome as a pinnacle of civility and eloquence, from Americans who less often look back to Shakespeare's England and thus increasingly lack an historically-informed understanding and appreciation for figures of speech such as the flinty heart.

Keywords:   citizenship, emotion, figures of speech, group psychology, heart, Julius Caesar, rhetoric, Shakespeare, stone

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