Spiller 2011

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Spiller, Elizabeth. Reading and the History of Race in the Renaissance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

"one place where histories of race and histories of books intersect is thus in the bodies of readers." (2)

"In ways that neither traditional book history nor critical race studies have fully recognized, the invention of the printing press was a key event in the early modern history of race." (2)

"Recent scholarship has gone a long way to avoid anachron- istic understandings of the content of race and its precursors, but another central goal of this book is to suggest that during this period it is not just the content of race that changed, but also the practices of reading that both created and allow us to understand that content. As important as our need to historicize the history and pre-history to race, we also have to be careful not to problematize just race, as if race were merely a type of content that can be classified as this and not that. We also have to address the practices through which we say we know what constitutes race, what race is and means." (3)

"Rather than relying upon reading as a seemingly transparent tool for understanding the past, I hope to show how reading was often the material process through which early modern forms of ethnic and racial identity were created." (3)

opposes Fuchs Mimesis and Empire to Callaghan 2000

"The history of difference as it impacted European notions of imperium thus involves understand- ing lived encounters that involve both performance (embodied simula- tion) and reception (the audiences, both political and cultural, to those simulations)." (5)

Shakespeare would have painted his body with burnt cork to create dark skin -- "Yet, Shakespeare’s experience of otherness did not begin with cork; it did not even begin with lived encounters that gave shape to characters such as Morocco, Othello, Caliban, or Cleopatra. Rather, Shakespeare began as a reader. Like most early modern writers, his understanding of otherness began primarily on the page, and probably began through his common grammar school experiences in Stratford-upon-Avon, rather than as a practicing playwright living in the comparatively cosmopolitan mercantile, political, and court environments in and around London. That is, to understand early modern experiences of the creation of racial difference we should also focus on Shakespeare, the reader, rather than on just Shakespeare, the playwright-actor, or Morocco, the dramatic character." (8)

"we need to see how reading, that of Shakespeare and others, developed over the preceding four gen- erations of print culture into an increasingly dominant cultural practice that became a key component of social and intellectual identity." (8-9)

"how early modern under- standings of racial identity in part emerged out of, and were expressed by way of, text-based reading practices." (9)

"As a genre, romance relies on very different models of identity than drama and thus offers an overlooked literary form for understanding the historic emergence of our own assumptions about race and identity. Within printed romance, in particular, identity emerges within the conventions of reading, as a form of looking, perceiving, and identifying, rather than within those of dramatic performance, of person- ation and impersonation." (10)

"The high incidence of marginalia, the dominance of the vernacular, the large numbers of editions, continuations, adaptations and epitomes are, as I see it, consequences of the intersection between the model of identity that romance as a genre advocates and the possibilities of print technol- ogy as a media. More particularly, this negotiation of readers’ identities in visible terms happens at the intersection between the text and the act of reading. Romance achieved its cultural dominance by adapting models of identity that defined characters within its fictions into a theory of reading that readers could take away from the page and bring back to their lives." (14)

"my goal in Reading and the History of Race in the Renaissance is to understand how the practices of reading that these romances articulated intersected with how they understood various forms of racial and pre-racial identity. Doing so makes it possible not just to understand individual texts or the practices of reading that they helped create, but also to think about how at least one early modern form of thinking about, creating, and practicing what became “racial identity” emerged from what were essentially text-based practices." (15)

"If printing was at the center of a new “age of the eye,” so was the emer- gence of racialized conceptions of the body. Critics have warned against the problem of seeing color too soon, of anticipating in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries a color divide that does not solidify until at least the end of the seventeenth and perhaps not until the eighteenth cen-

tury. 55 We may read too much into earlier attitudes toward skin color, complexion, and race when we read back through the perspective implied by later events. The printing press did not invent the racism that emerged from the Renaissance. Yet both presses and racism are in allied ways a consequence of the rise of a visual culture in early modern Europe that Michael Baxandall, Eisenstein, Alfred Crosby, and others have defined as a kind of cognitive transformation of space and time, things both vis- ible and invisible, into a newly constant, homogeneous, mathematically boundable world. To the extent that visual culture produced new tech- nologies, attitudes toward the notion of categories, or understandings of how we might see the world, then the way in which readers experienced identity is a good place to understand that visual culture. In making these arguments, I am suggesting that, in ways that schol- arship has not recognized, reading contributed to the emergence of eth- nic models of identity in the early modern period." (18)

"Reading happened in the body largely because, for early modern read- ers, the body within which reading happened was a humoral one. Through the mid-seventeenth century, Galenic humoralism provided the dominant philosophical tradition through which the act of reading was understood, explained, and probably experienced." (23)

"Renaissance readers of Galen regarded reading as something that was likely to disrupt the humoral balance of the body, and they added reading to their list of non-naturals." (24)

"Humanist projects for controlling reading in this period should thus be understood as fundamentally related to more familiar projects that sought to exert control over the humanist body through diet: both were aimed at subduing passion and achieving reason within the humoral body." (27)

"Whatever the physical consequences to reading in general, romance as a genre was closely associated to this idea that the act of reading might change the complexions of readers, potentially transforming the color, temperature, and texture of their skins, and it did so in a humorally specific way. As I will suggest both here in the Introduction and in the chapters that follow, romance as a genre had traditionally been concerned with affirmations of blood kinship and universal Christian identity within a narrative structure that was premised primarily on the fixed and vis- ibly manifest nature of identity; the reading experiences that came to be associated with romance, though, instead sited romance at the fractures of early modern notions of identity. In part, this link followed from the dubious content of romances but, more importantly, it was also a result of the formal features that defined the genre, especially in its printed forms, and that were understood to have a powerful impact on those who read them. To the extent that romance itself had a complexion, early modern critics would probably have classified it as melancholic and most likely as an unnatural or pathological form of melancholy. Romances were thought to be likely to inflame readers, overheating their brains and burning away good blood, until they were left with the scorched black blood and the dark complexion of melancholy. In keeping with the therapeutic model of Galenism, this association also derived from the fact that romances were stereotypically associated with the kinds of readers who were understood to be weak enough to be drawn to read them." (27-8)

"As both the medical theory and lived practice seemed to suggest, reading romances could leave readers with cold, dry bodies. Reading romances might easily cause susceptible readers to over- heat and then dry out, in ways that changed the physical complexions and the humoral balance of readers." (35)

"Like diet and physic, reading was something that could indeed change your complexion, marking you as surely as the sun did and for related reasons. At the historic moment when humoralism was beginning to be supplanted by other philosophical and ethnographical models of the body, the genre of romance comes to stand in for a relationship between reading and the body. Romance as a genre came to emblematize cultural assumptions that reading was an extension of the humoral body, but one that did not affirm identity so much as imagine, at its most literal, the possible transformation of that body into something else. For both humanists and moral philosophers, in particular, the body that read was a humoral body. To the extent that humanist reaction against romance was responsible for framing the ways in which writers, translators, and publishers presented their work, this attention to the humoral passions that were understood to be associated with the act of reading romances had a strong impact on how early modern romances were constructed and understood." (36)