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Lyly’s ‘Anatomy of Wit’ | Early Modern and Open Access

By August 14, 2016 No Comments

This is part of a series here at TSS: Early Modern and Open Access regularly showcases peer-reviewed articles (or other resources) of interest to early modernists that are freely available in open access formats.


Link:

Adele Kudish, “John Lyly’s Anatomy of Wit as an Example of Early Modern Psychological Fiction,” Cerae 3 (2016)

Abstract:

John Lyly developed the prose style that would become known as euphuism, named after the main character in his Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and his England (1580). The term ‘euphuism’ signifies the use of paradoxical and self-correcting language, while its spokespersons express a great deal of self-doubt and contradiction. We can conjecture that Lyly intended his ironic, detailed examination of ‘wit’ to dissect both the intellect and its often-inconsistent maneuverings, revealing a cynical view of human behavior. In this article, I re-read The Anatomy of Wit (1578) in the context of a larger body of what I call proto-psychological fiction. I argue that certain Early Modern texts, of which Lyly’s is a strong example, share tropes and motifs that indicate the author’s interest in the workings of human psychology avant la lettre, and more specifically, of a pessimistic strain of thought that is critical of self-awareness and doubtful of our ability to be guided by reason.

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Lindsay

Author Lindsay

Lindsay Ann Reid is a regular contributor to The Scrivener and Early Modern and Open Access. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and is a Lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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