Space for Community: Spatial Rhetoric and Moral Judgment in the Poetry of the English Renaissance

Jennison-Scheler, Andrew Edward, Department of English, University of Virginia
Braden, Gordon, Department of English, University of Virginia
Jost, Walter, Department of English, University of Virginia
Fowler, Elizabeth, Department of English, University of Virginia

Space for Community: Spatial Rhetoric and Moral Judgment in the Poetry of the English Renaissance It is known that the Renaissance was an era of rhetoric, and that the humanist movement put this discipline of public speaking at the center of the Tudor and Stuart educational system. "Space for Community" investigates how the period's poets saw rhetoric as a social discipline that could inform moral judgment and action. To facilitate persuasion, rhetoricians had long proposed a range of argumentative techniques that could establish a rational, emotional, and ethical space shared by orator and audiencewhat we now call common grounds. Notably, rhetoricians employed a range of such spatial metaphors to describe this aspect of their craft, which characteristically seeks to find a common basis for persuasion. My project unpacks how the period's poets lent these spatial metaphors imaginative and physical form in their works, thereby visualizing the suasive grounds of moral judgment in several important cultural contexts. As such, I reveal how moments of moral judgment in the period's poetry are animated by a sense of community, a term I employ to describe a network of closely associated concepts that includes kinship, familiarity, domesticity, hospitality, neighborliness, charity, and intimacy. Chapters on Edmund Spenser, Ben Jonson, and George Herbert all explore how these concepts could render moral judgments both legible and persuasive in a given context. Adopting the spatial metaphors of rhetorical theory, these poets insisted that readers visualize a discursive and social basis for moral judgment on a range of cultural problems, including legal dominion, patronage ii economics, and religious sectarianism. Each poet adopted a different rhetorical strategy (such as status theory, commonplace reasoning, and ethical persuasion) in order to address a specific cultural dispute. In doing so, all of them display how a provisional and rhetorical sense of community-one that cannot be defined by a particular social groupcan render one side of a debate morally legible to the other. As such, these poets stress community as a shared value that could guide judgment in cases where individuals could no longer appeal to a firm philosophical, political, or religious authority.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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