Recursive Origins tells a compelling story with a clear antagonist: the literary period. William Kuskin’s mighty ambition in this book is to “provide an alternative model for conceiving of literary history” (7), resisting the totalizing temporal categories of modernity and the logic of revolution or rupture (“make it new”) that defines and legitimizes them. In place of the period as literary history’s master category, Kuskin proposes a temporal sweep best analyzed in “a twofold formal structure: (1) rhetorical in the received tropes and schemes of literary expression and (2) material in the documentary modes that physically articulate and archive literature” (128). Through a thoughtful merger of formalist and book-historical methods, he revisits canonical works from that quintessential moment of rupture, the English Renaissance, to show how the “early modern” writers of the sixteenth century engaged—in ways that we, the adherents of period,...
Recursive Origins: Writing at the Transition to Modernity
Jeffrey Todd Knight is associate professor of English and codirector of the Textual Studies Program at the University of Washington. His first book, Bound to Read: Compilations, Collections, and the Making of Renaissance Literature, appeared in 2013.
Jeffrey Todd Knight; Recursive Origins: Writing at the Transition to Modernity. Modern Language Quarterly 1 December 2015; 76 (4): 515–517. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-3152837
Download citation file: