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For Dante and Petrarch, posthumous love was a powerful conviction. Like many of their contemporaries, both poets envisioned their encounters with their beloved in heavenOCoDante with Beatrice, Petrarch with Laura. But as Ramie Targoff reveals in this elegant study, English love poetry of the Renaissance brought a startling reversal of this tradition: human love became definitively mortal. Exploring the boundaries that Renaissance English poets drew between earthly and heavenly existence, Targoff seeks to understand this shift and its consequences for English poetry. aTargoff shows that medieval notions of the somewhat flexible boundaries between love in this world and in the next were hardened by Protestant reformers, who envisioned a total break between the two. Tracing the narrative of this rupture, she focuses on central episodes in poetic history in which poets developed rich and compelling compensations for the lack of posthumous loveOCofrom Thomas WyattOCOs translations of PetrarchOCOs love sonnets and the Elizabethan sonnet series of Shakespeare and Spencer to thea"carpe diem"apoems of the seventeenth century. TargoffOCOs centerpiece isa"Romeo and Juliet," where she considers how ShakespeareOCOs reworking of the Italian story stripped away any expectation that the doomed teenagers would reunite in heaven. Casting new light on these familiar works of poetry and drama, this book ultimately demonstrates that the negation of posthumous love brought forth a new mode of poetics that derived its emotional and aesthetic power from its insistence upon loveOCOs mortal limits. "
Sir Thomas Browne is one of the supreme stylists of the English language: a coiner of words and spinner of phrases to rival Shakespeare; the wielder of a weird and wonderful erudition; an inquiring spirit in the mold of Montaigne. Browne was an inspiration to the Romantics as well as to W.G. Sebald, and his work is quirky, sonorous, and enchanting. Here this baroque master's two most enduring and admired works, Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall, appear in a new edition that has been annotated and introduced by the distinguished scholars Ramie Targoff and Stephen Greenblatt (author of the best-selling Will in the World and the National Book Award-winning The Swerve). In Religio Medici Browne mulls over the relation between his medical profession and his profession of the Christian faith, pondering the respective claims of science and religion, questions that are still very much alive today. The discovery of an ancient burial site in an English field prompted Browne to write Urne-Buriall, which is both an early anthropological examination of different practices of interment and a profound meditation on mortality. Its grave and exquisite music has resounded for generations.