This special issue of JNR will seek to explore the slippery notion of the ‘will’ and its various semantic permutations in the context of such issues as subjectivity, power, logic, desire, freedom, volition, wit, wisdom, theology and metaphysics. One of its main purposes is to investigate what power and signifying force ‘the will’ possesses, as well as its limitations, and to locate this concept within the aesthetic, political, theological, philosophical and ideological traditions that informed early modern literature and culture.
The issue builds on a symposium held at the University of Strathclyde, and will be guest-edited by Alison Thorne; however, for this issue JNR also welcomes further submissions around this theme.
The semantic slipperiness of will fascinated the Renaissance: in all manner of texts of the period we find ‘Will too boote, and Will in over-plus’. The structural conceit of the opening lines of John Donne’s poem, ‘The Will’, exemplifies a key thematic construct to be found in much early modern literature and a prevalent intellectual thread in the culture from which this literature emerges: ‘Before I sigh my last gasp, let me breath / Great Love, some legacies’. This poem – this willed enactment of the speaker’s last will and testament to the world he will shortly leave behind – encapsulates the polyvocal qualities of the human ‘will’ and all that it signifies. The rich intellectual legacy of the European Renaissance that we, as critics and researchers, struggle to understand is constructed from the physical and literary legacies that writers such as Donne, Erasmus, Calvin, Elizabeth I, Marlowe, Middleton and others have bequeathed us. It is from these legacies of authorial ‘will’ that our very idea of what represents or constitutes the early modern period is shaped
We would welcome papers of up to 8,000 words on the ‘will’ in the northern Renaissance. Topics might include (but are not limited to):
Will as desire or volition: willfulness; will as voluntas; will as membrum pudendum, male or female; possession of one’s will; excessive willing, transgressive will.
Theological and philosophical wills: freedom of the will; the negation or undoing of the will; will as futurity; theological debates on the relationship between ‘will’ and ‘fate’.
Literary and legal wills: the exercise or abdication of authorial will or intentionality; will as testament; framing legal wills; the interplay between ‘wit’ and ‘will’; Will as a proper name and authoritative mark.
Preliminary enquiries are welcome, and should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org Expected date of publication October 2012.
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