Lesser Living Creatures of the Renaissance examines literary and cultural texts from early modern England in order to understand how people in that era thought about – and with – insect and arachnid life. Designed for the classroom, the book comprises two volumes – Insects and Concepts – that can be used together or independently. Each addresses the collaborative, multigenerational research that produced early modern natural history and provides new insights into the old question of what it means to be human in a world populated by beasts large and small.
Volume 1: Insects, examines how insects burrowed into the literal and symbolic economies of the era. The contributors consider diminutive creatures – such as bees and beetles, flies and fleas, silkworms and spiders – and their depictions in plays, poetry, fables, natural histories, and more. In doing so, they illuminate how early modern science and literature worked as intersecting systems of knowledge production about the natural world and show definitively how insect life was, and remains, intimately entangled with human life.
In addition to the editors, contributors to this volume include Chris Barrett, Roya Biggie, Bruce Boehrer, Gary Bouchard, Dan Brayton, Eric Brown, Mary Baine Campbell, Perry Guevara, Shannon Kelley, Emily King, Karen Raber, Kathryn Vomero Santos, Donovan Sherman, and Steven Swarbrick.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Creatures / Joseph Campana
1. Silkworm Thomas Moffett, Silkworm Laureate / Bruce Boehrer
2. Ants Go to the Pismire / Shannon Kelley
3. Flea Annihilating the Copulative Conceit: John Donne’s Conversion of the “son of dust” into Uncertain Sacrilege / Gary M. Bouchard
4. Fly Of Flyes: The Insect Mind of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus / Perry Guevara
5. Gnat The Clamor of Things: Moffett’s Gnats, Spenser’s Complaints / Steven Swarbrick
6. Maggot Mutable Maggots: Corruption, Generation, and Literary Legacy / Emily L. King
7. Bee “Some say the bee stings”: Toward an Apian Poetics / Keith Botelho and Joseph Campana
8. Wasp What Is It Like to Be Like a Wasp? / Donovan Sherman
9. Butterflies and Moths Volatile Creatures and Elaborate Work / Chris Barrett
10. Grasshopper and Locust Antimonarchal Locusts: Translating the Grasshopper in the Aftermath of the English Civil Wars / Kathryn Vomero Santos
11. Beetle Sycorax’s Beetles: Legacies of Science, the Occult, and Blackness / Roya Biggie
12. Spider The Renaissance of Spiders: Ambivalence, Beauty, Terror, Art / Mary Baine Campbell
13. Water Bugs Bugs Aquatic: Water Striders from Moffett to Marine Science / Dan Brayton
14. Worms Worms of Conscience / Karen Raber
15. Scorpions Flame of Fire Beaten: Scorpions in and out of Mind / Eric C. Brown
Epilogue Creatures / Keith Botelho
List of Contributors
Keith Botelho is Professor of English at Kennesaw State University. He is the author of Renaissance Earwitnesses: Rumor and Early Modern Masculinity.
Joseph Campana is William Shakespeare Professor of English and Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Rice University. He is the author of The Pain of Reformation: Spenser, Vulnerability, and the Ethics of Masculinity and the coeditor, with Scott Maisano, of Renaissance Posthumanism.
"Lesser Living Creatures of the Renaissance brings a welcome and timely focus on early modern understandings of insect life, ideas, and work that stood, as the authors convincingly argue, in the midst of the transformation of natural history 'as literary authority' to embodying the new scientific ideas and observational methods of the era. This two-volume work makes a significant scholarly contribution to literary studies and history by bringing insects and insect life into these conversations."
– Martha Few, author of Baptism Through Incision: The Postmortem Cesarean Operation in the Spanish Empire
"There has not previously been such a wide-ranging collection as this. Lesser Living Creatures of the Renaissance is a vital new contribution to not only early modern studies, not only animal studies and ecocriticism, but also the history of science, the history of medicine, and current debates about the environment."
– Erica Fudge, author of Quick Cattle & Dying Wishes: People and Their Animals in Early Modern England