• ‘Rich eyes and poor hands’: Theaters of Early Modern Experience

    Adam Rzepka (see profile)
    Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, Theater, History, Historiography--Philosophy, Sixteenth century, Seventeenth century, Phenomenology
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    New Historicism, Discourse Analysis (Research Methodology), Shakespeare, Audience and reception studies, Theater history, Historiographic theory, Early modern theatre
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    Rzepka’s “Rich eyes and poor hands” tackles head-on the very category of “experience” by asking a deceptively simple question: “To what do we appeal when we appeal to experience?” The word itself is usually treated as self-explanatory, despite its palpable ambiguities. Seeking to recover the word’s critical potential, Rzepka suggests that contemporary criticism implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) relies on the assumed security of a “contract between historian and historical agent to share experience across time”; experience becomes a way of guaranteeing a bridge between past and present, “an agreement to meet in a comfortable, autonomous space for the re-enactment of the past.” But equally pervasive in critical metaphors is the link between “the figure of experience and the figure of the theater” (signaled, for instance, in R.G. Collingwood’s use of such terms as “revival” and “re-enactment,” or in Bruce Smith’s contrast between “immersive experience” and “detached spectatorship”). Historicizing this connection within the context of early modern Protestant and Puritan discourse (as well as proto-scientific handbooks and manuals that appeal to “experience” to lend authority to “experiment”), Rzepka shows that the religious and the secular spaces of Renaissance literature shared a belief that experience “is not simply had or gained, but made.”
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    2 years ago
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