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A History of European LiteratureThe West and the World from Antiquity to the Present$
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Walter Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732679.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 April 2021

The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 1

The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 1

Europe and the Mediterranean

(p.239) 9 The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 1
A History of European Literature

Walter Cohen

Oxford University Press

The literature of empire in the Renaissance, treated in this chapter and the next, extends from national consolidation to oceanic conquest and colonization. It is marked thematically by discomfort with the imperial project and formally by a logic of nonrepresentation. The farther from home the conflict, the more pronounced the pressure against mimetic accounts. Thus, civil wars and intra-European antagonisms routinely receive representation, except when the work ends up rejecting the importance of the undertaking (Shakespeare’s Hamlet). But renderings of the struggle between Christians and Muslims for control of the Mediterranean move the issue from representation to psychology (Shakespeare’s Othello) or narration (Cervantes’s Don Quijote), as if the distance between the two cultures were too great to overcome. In the case of realist fiction, moreover, this challenge is compounded by a formal imperative to stay close to home.

Keywords:   empire, Renaissance, representation, realist fiction, Shakespeare, Hamlet, Othello, Cervantes, Don Quijote

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