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Poetry in a World of ThingsAesthetics and Empiricism in Renaissance Ekphrasis$
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Rachel Eisendrath

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226516585

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226516752.001.0001

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Playing with Things: Reification in Marlowe’s Hero and Leander

Playing with Things: Reification in Marlowe’s Hero and Leander

(p.82) Chapter Four Playing with Things: Reification in Marlowe’s Hero and Leander
Poetry in a World of Things

Rachel Eisendrath

University of Chicago Press

Marlowe’s 1593 Hero and Leander is often treated as “fetishistic” because of the way it combines an erotic story with a unique obsession with objects, an obsession most evident in the three consecutive ekphrases (of Hero’s clothing, Leander’s body, and the Temple of Venus) with which the poem begins. But Marlowe’s work is more dynamic than such an approach would suggest. By analyzing stylistic correspondences between Marlowe’s work and the largely neglected literature of post-Augustan antiquity, especially the Greek romances of the Second Sophistic, this chapter shows that Marlowe’s poem has absorbed into itself the ekphrastic style of this earlier literature in order to undo its fetishized aestheticism from within. In the end, Hero and Leander critiques literary history by introducing an awareness of the historical brutalities that previous aestheticism excludes.

Keywords:   Christopher Marlowe, ekphrasis, epyllion, reification, objects, Second Sophistic, aestheticism, Greek romances, things, Longus

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