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Chapter 1 - Thomas Nashe and the Processing of Urban Experience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 June 2023

Christopher D'Addario
Affiliation:
Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania
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Summary

This chapter argues that Thomas Nashe created a novel role for the urban writer that also assumed an innovative set of aesthetic principles that we associate with the metaphysical and that was directly antagonistic to humanist ideals. The dissatisfaction that Nashe felt at his lack of advancement as a member of the supposed intellectual elite contributed to his deeply skeptical outlook on reality and on the efficacy of humanist writing more specifically. As I newly detail in this chapter, the precise quotidian realities of Nashe’s existence in London in the 1590s pushed him to formulate a novel advocacy of contention even as he pushed away the noisiness of the urban public world, an entirely ambivalent stance towards the city embodied in Nashe’s obsession with corners. In formulating a writing approach that corresponded with his objections to Philip Sidney and Gabriel Harvey and to his urban reality, Nashe innovated his prose style into something less mimetic than affective, a style that foregrounded a speedy aimlessness, as well as a heterogeneous mixture of materialist images. Nashe’s prose thus takes up the very features that we now call the metaphysical.

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Urban Aesthetics in Early Modern London
The Invention of the Metaphysical
, pp. 31 - 91
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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