This book deals with the special power of literary texts to put us in contact with the past. A large number of authors, coming from different ages, have described this power in terms of 'the conversation with the dead': when we read these texts, we somehow find ourselves conducting a special kind of dialogue with dead authors. The book covers a number of texts and authors that make use of this metaphor - Petrarch, Machiavelli, Sidney, Flaubert, Michelet, Barthes. In connecting these texts and authors in novel ways, Jurgen Pieters tackles the all-important question of why we remain fascinated with literature in general and with the specific texts that to us are still its backbone. Siituated in the aftermath of New Historicism, the book challenges the idea that literary history as a reading practice stems from a desire to 'speak with the dead'.
Key Features * Offers a broad survey (a combination of classical literature, Renaissance literature and modern theory and history) * Issues a plea for the importance of reading literary texts and the power of literature * Discusses key figues from the Western canon - Homer, Virgil, Dante, Machiavelli - in light of the idea that we can learn from the past by talking to 'the dead' * Combines theoretical discussions of the relationsip between literature and history with close reading of works by major literary authors and historians.
Jurgen Pieters teaches literary theory and cultural history at the University of Ghent, Belgium. He is the author of Moments of Negotiation. The New Historicism of Stephen Greenblatt (Amsterdam University Press, 2001).
Table of Contents; Introduction; Chapter 1: Among Ancient Men (Petrarch, Machiavelli, Sidney and Huygens); Chapter 2: The Gaze of Medusa and the Practice of the Historian (Rubens and Huygens); Chapter 3: The Historical Shiver (Flaubert, Michelet and Keats); Chapter 4: 'Now Let Us Go Into This Blind World' (Dante, Virgil, Homer and T. S. Eliot); Chapter 5: The Sounds of Silence (Roland Barthes); Epilogue; Index.