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Texts to condemne us. A study of the prose works of Thomas Nashe.

Shooter, Rob G.; (1990) Texts to condemne us. A study of the prose works of Thomas Nashe. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D.), University College London. Green open access

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Abstract

The purpose of my thesis is to re-assess the prose works of Thomas Nashe and repudiate the conventional critical judgement that his texts suffer from an `inexplicable themelessness'. Instead, I have stressed two sustaining features of Nashe's work. Firstly, I argue that the rhapsodic composition of the texts is only apparently formless and that this method of composition was recognised and appreciated by an Elizabethan audience. Secondly, I have analysed recurring images and textual and narrative devices in the works, by reference to the notion of carnival. I argue that Nashe's work was, and can be, profitably read for its coherent depiction of a late-mediaeval anti-world, prodigal, grotesque, spendthrift, egalitarian and immensely productive. It celebrates the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions and is a temporary liberation for the oppressed from their everyday world. Its characteristic mode of understanding the world is through the corporeal vocabulary of laughter. The fragmented and rhapsodic construction of the texts - with their competing voices and genres - is an organic extension of their subject matter. Parody of social, political and literary conventions flatters its readers by making them (if only temporarily) legislators of their own desires. Pursuing these themes enables my thesis to make sense of other, puzzling aspects of Nashe's work, particularly the excess and violence of works like The Unfortunate Traveller. I read this text as a stage on which carnival and law are most clearly opposed. The prose works of Thomas Nashe should be read as a pursuit of the `extemporall veine' of eloquent speech, praised by conventional rhetoric and liberated for Nashe by his use of popular forms in preference to the morally self-possessed author of the didactic text. In this sense, his apparently `themeless' texts cohere as a real and sustained imaginative contemplation of aspects of the human condition.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D.
Title: Texts to condemne us. A study of the prose works of Thomas Nashe.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by Proquest
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108247
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