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Futile PleasuresEarly Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility$
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Corey McEleney

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823272655

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823272655.001.0001

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Pleasure without Profit

Pleasure without Profit

(p.15) Chapter 1 Pleasure without Profit
Futile Pleasures

Corey McEleney

Fordham University Press

The first chapter lays the groundwork for the rest of the study by pursuing three goals: it offers a preliminary investigation of the utility and value that early modern writers intended for their work, examines how and why pleasure disrupts those intentions, and establishes how this issue persists in the context of contemporary theoretical debates. Through close readings of passages from texts by early modern writers such as Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, George Puttenham, Andrew Marvell, and George Herbert, as well as contemporary theorists such as Fredric Jameson and Stephen Greenblatt, this chapter demonstrate the complexities and contradictions that pleasure instantiates within the standards of utility to which poets attempt to adhere. The use of pleasure as a means to valuable ends is constantly belied by its volatile contingency, which provides no guarantee that poetry can deliver the goods that it advertises. Extending its readings into the modern era, the chapter follows the dynamics of abjection and dialectical recuperation with which modern thinkers have attempted to master such contingency, often by projecting it onto questionably futile forms of desire embodied in queer sexualities.

Keywords:   contingency, dialectics, futility, pleasure, queerness

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