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No Island Is an Island Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective

by Carlo Ginzburg

  • ISBN: 9780231116282
  • ISBN10: 0231116284

No Island Is an Island Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective

by Carlo Ginzburg

  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 12/01/2000
  • ISBN: 9780231116282
  • ISBN10: 0231116284
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Description: Carlo Ginzburg, an internationally renowned historian and one of the founding fathers of the fascinating paradigm of "microhistory", presents here his brilliant exposition of four works of English literature, unearthing strands of meaning within the broad context of world history. No Island Is an Island takes daring, unprecedented roads to literary illumination -- setting Thomas More's Utopia, for instance, against a backdrop of an innovative reading of the second-century writer Lucian of Samosata. A debate in Elizabethan England over quantitative versus rhymed verse is another topic of Ginzburg's intellectual banquet. He contends that the issue at stake was a quarrel over not merely the technical attributes of poetry but the larger insecurity about the value of classical versus national vernacular poetic traditions. Ginzburg points to the influence of Montaigne's famed essay "On Cannibals" to show how this debate evolved into a positive re-evaluation of "barbarian" cultures. Another section investigates the impact of Robert Louis Stevenson's folkloric story "The Bottle Imp", making a persuasive case for the tale's influence on anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowsky's seminal attempts to discover meaning in the "kula" trading system among the Trobriand Islanders.

Throughout, Ginzburg's inquiry is informed by his unique microhistorical sensibility, his attention to minute detail and his extraordinary synthesizing imagination. A lucid introduction ties together the strands of this expansive intellectual adventure. With this small but remarkable book, Carlo Ginzburg opens paths toward an inspired reconsideration of literature as part of the world in which it is shaped and in which it lives.

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