By Philip Schwyzer

This learn attracts at the idea and perform of archaeology to improve a brand new point of view at the literature of the Renaissance. Philip Schwyzer explores the fascination with pictures of excavation, exhumation, and break that runs via literary texts together with Spenser's Faerie Queene, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, Donne's sermons and lyrics, and Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall. Miraculously preserved corpses, ruined monasteries, Egyptian mummies, and Yorick's cranium all determine during this learn of the early glossy archaeological mind's eye. The pessimism of the interval is summed up within the haunting motif of the gorgeous corpse that, as soon as touched, crumbles to airborne dirt and dust. Archaeology and literary experiences are themselves items of the Renaissance. even if the 2 disciplines have occasionally seen each other as opponents, they percentage a different and unsettling intimacy with the lines of earlier life--with the phrases the lifeless wrote, sang, or heard, with the items they made, held, or lived inside of. Schwyzer argues that on the root of either sorts of scholarship lies the forbidden wish to wake up (and converse with) the useless. despite the fact that very unlikely or absurd this wish can be, it is still a primary resource of either moral accountability and aesthetic excitement.

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It might be objected that many literary critics and, to a lesser degree, archaeologists concern themselves with the traces of the living, rather than the dead. Yet, as Eliot observed, the distinction is more apparent than real: ‘No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. ’ T. S. Eliot, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, in Selected Essays (London: Faber, 1934), 15. By the same token, in archaeology, the study of contemporary refuse (garbology) is a thriving subfield, but the purpose of the exercise is to derive rules about the relationship between culture and material waste which can be applied to the study of the past.

As Greenblatt concludes in his meditation on speaking with the dead, It was true that I could hear only my own voice, but my own voice was the voice of the dead, for the dead had contrived to leave textual traces of themselves, and those traces make themselves heard in the voices of the living. ¹⁷ ¹⁶ Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations, 1. ¹⁷ ibid. 24 Intimate Disciplines The recognition that there is no one out there to speak to makes the scholar’s relationship with the trace more, not less, vital, more, not less, charged with the urgency of impossible longing.

Hearne’s generosity on this point does not conceal his basic certainty that texts are inherently superior to artefacts in communicating information about the past. ⁴⁶ In blunt terms, nothing speaks like words. Why listen to the pots when you can listen to the poets? Approaching archaeological discourse from the vantage point of a literary critic, I confess to having begun with the assumption that the fascination with ‘voice’ developed out of a need to compensate for the silence of the sherds—that it was, in effect, the academic equivalent of Freudian ‘penis-envy’, a longing for what one lacks by definition and can never be complete without.

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