Five WordsCritical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes

Five WordsCritical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes

Roland Greene

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226000633

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Blood. Invention. Language. Resistance. World. Five ordinary words that do a great deal of conceptual work in everyday life and literature. This experiment in critical semantics considers how these five words changed over the course of the sixteenth century and what their changes indicate about broader forces in science, politics, and other disciplines. It discusses a broad swath of Renaissance and transatlantic literature—including Shakespeare, Cervantes, Camões, and Milton—in terms of the development of these words rather than works, careers, or histories. The book creates a method for describing and understanding the semantic changes that occur, extending his argument to other words which operate in the same manner. Aiming to shift the conversation around Renaissance literature from current approaches to riskier enterprises, it also challenges semantic-historicist scholars, proposing a method that takes advantage of digital resources such as full-text databases but still depends on the interpreter to fashion ideas out of ordinary language.