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The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt

Reviewed by Fionnchú

Matching the approach in Greenblatt’s first work addressed beyond the seminar table, Will in the World (2004), The Swerve elaborates this professor’s New Historicist direction. This literary theory favors context over text; it explores the historical backgrounds and “cultural poetics” infusing a literary work.

Greenblatt, a leading New Historicist and Renaissance expert now teaching at Harvard, roams over the centuries that comprise a back story and a sequel for one Roman writer’s surviving philosophy in 7,400 verses. With Lucretius, we have much less to go on than even the famously debated documentary evidence (or its lack) for the life and career of this professor’s usual center of attention, Shakespeare.

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