Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
My project explores the distinctive union of Senecan tragedy and Elizabethan satire in Renaissance English drama, particularly the works of John Marston and William Shakespeare. Unlike Ben Jonson, who incorporated both Senecan tragedy and Elizabethan satire in his drama but did so in different plays (Catiline, Every Man Out), Marston and Shakespeare combined the two traditions in one and the same play, such as the former's Antonio's Revenge (1600) and The Malcontent (c. 1603) and the latter's Troilus and Cressida (1601) and Timon of Athens (c. 1606). They recognized and exploited a deep compatibility between the two traditions, a compatibility that has gone largely unacknowledged in English scholarship. I argue that this compatibility lies in the centrality to both Senecan tragedy and Elizabethan satire of "uncommon sense," a term that I define in relation to "common sense" and historicize in accordance with three different conceptions of the latter in Western culture: an Aristotelian psychological common sense, a Roman rhetorical common sense, and a Kantian aesthetic common sense. The first is a mental faculty in Aristotelian psychology that coordinated the five senses: a "normative structure of perception" (Noel Jackson). The second is a social-rhetorical stance, typically expressed in proverbs, asserting conventional beliefs and values: "the Latin rhetorical ideal of `good sense' and `sound judgment'" (Daniel Heller-Roazen). The third is a concept from Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment, which posits a sensus communis as the ground of aesthetic judgment: "a properly aesthetic common sense," a "pleasure which we suppose to be communicable to, and valid for, everyone" (Gilles Deleuze). These concepts inform my threefold definition of "uncommon sense:" as psychological derangement that disrupts the normal organization of mental faculties, rhetorical extravagance that opposes or obscures conventional language, and aesthetic displeasure that violates the ideal of consensus in artistic taste. Thus, "psychological uncommon sense" refers to mental disturbances such as furor, melancholy, and hallucination; "rhetorical uncommon sense" refers to paradoxical or contentious speech acts that deny consensus, contradicting or obscuring conventional beliefs and values; and "aesthetic uncommon sense" refers to deliberately repulsive artworks that provoke the opposite of the universal pleasure presupposed in Kant's sensus communis aestheticus. I argue that these features are definitive of both Senecan tragedy and Elizabethan satire and together constitute the "uncommon sense" that structures Renaissance plays uniting the two genres.
Byville, Eric, "Uncommon Sense in Renaissance English Literature" (2010). Dissertations. 174.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Copyright © 2010 Eric Byville