Humanism and Classical Crisis

Anxiety, Intertexts, and the Miltonic Memory

Jacob Blevins

Classical Memories/Modern Identities


Literary Criticism/Ancient and Classical; Literary Criticism/European/General
232 pp. 6x9

$26.95 paper 978-0-8142-5299-4
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The author recommends the following links:

Milton Society of America

The Renaissance Society of America

Classical Reception Studies Network

South-Central Renaissance Conference

(Re-)turn: A Journal of Lacanian Studies


“Convincing and compelling. The argument is thoughtfully framed, intelligently pursued, and ultimately successful.” —Raphael Lyne, senior lecturer in English, University of Cambridge

While earlier critics have demonstrated significant insight into the relationship between the classical world and the early modern period, Humanism and Classical Crisis: Anxiety, Intertexts, and the Miltonic Memory, by Jacob Blevins, offers a new psychoanalytic approach to understanding classical reception, specifically during the early modern period. Blevins asserts that influence and imitation are primarily driven by anxious desires to identify the poetic self with the past while simultaneously affirming the autonomy and individuality of the self within its own cultural, ideological, and poetic moment. Since the poet cannot hold positions simultaneously in both past and present, anxiety irrupts as the poet fails to understand the fissures in his sense of identity and how that identity is articulated in poetic expression.

Blevins grounds his approach in the theories of Jacques Lacan, whose work challenges the very notions of what identity is and, as a result, exposes the complexities of identity formation. Areas and authors covered include imitations and translations of classical works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England and France by Andrew Marvell, Edmund Spencer, Pierre Ronsard, Joachim Du Bellay, Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and John Milton.

This book not only provides a new perspective on early modern poetic imitation, but also offers a foundational methodology for examining the classical presence within the modern self.

Jacob Blevins is professor of English at McNeese State University.