Date of Award

Summer 8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Committee Chair

Dr. Jameela Lares

Committee Chair Department

English

Committee Member 2

Dr. Elizabeth Harris

Committee Member 2 Department

English

Committee Member 3

Dr. Charles Sumner

Committee Member 3 Department

English

Committee Member 4

Dr. Joseph Navitsky

Committee Member 4 Department

English

Committee Member 5

Dr. Mark Dahlquist

Committee Member 5 Department

English

Abstract

The concept of wit undergoes a transformation in the sixteenth century from having associations with the intellect, with its cultural productions, and with classical study towards more direct associations with the writing trade and with clever wordplay. This transition, as I will demonstrate, relates specifically to tensions between humanist culture and the early modern literary marketplace. This dissertation begins by examining the early sixteenth century humanists' concept of wit and goes on to examine the presentation of the concept by four late sixteenth century writers—John Lyly (1553-1606), Thomas Nashe (1567-1601), Robert Greene (1560-1592), and William Shakespeare (1564-1616). I argue that each of these writers find themselves squarely at the crossroads of humanistic influence and marketplace demand and that their individual presentations of wit demonstrate the way each of them negotiates this territory.

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