Guilty Creatures: Renaissance Poetry and the Ethics of Authorship

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This study examines how Renaissance poets conceive the theme of killing as a specifically representational and interpretive form of violence. Closely reading both major poets and lesser known authors, Dennis Kezar explores the ethical self-consciousness and accountability that attend literary killing, paying particular attention to the ways in which this reflection indicates the poet's understanding of his audience. Kezar explores the concept of authorial guilt elicited by violent representation in poems including Skelton's Phyllyp Sparowe, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the multi-authored Witch of Edmonton, and Milton's Samson Agonistes. In each case, he reflects on the poetic process and explores the ethical ramifications for both author and audience. In emphasizing the social, literary, and historical consequences of 'killing poems,' this volume further advances scholarship in historicist and speech-act theories of the early modern period.