Language Recreated
Seventeenth-Century Metaphorists and the Act of Metaphor

Harold Skulsky


"This is really a remarkable book: setting out to read English poetry of the early seventeenth century, the author takes on nearly all the theoretical establishment and most of the twentieth-century critics of Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, and Vaughan. I think this may be the most important book about the way seventeenth-century English verse works since Rosemond Tuve’s Elizabethan and Metaphysical Imagery."
—Joseph H. Summers, The Georgia Review

“Much of this book serves usefully as sensitivity training in the operation of metaphor, alerting us to the complex but rule-governed processes by which metaphysical poets engage us in reading… If Susan Sontag was right to suggest that the best a writer can hope for is to compose a few good sentences, Skulsky can rest well pleased with his account of the ‘metaphorists of the seventeenth century.’”
—William Shullenberger, Sarah Lawrence College, George Herbert Journal

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A searching contribution to the study of what  gurative language is and how it works, this book is a guide to the sophisticated and powerful artistry of the seventeenth-century English poets who have come to be known by the misleading name of “Metaphysicals.” Harold Skulsky argues that “Metaphorists” is the more apt label. After exploring the dramatic and transactional theory of figurative language that these poets owe to the traditions they share, Skulsky gives close and carefully argued readings of their major poems. We watch metaphor being enacted rather than made in a high-stakes game of cue and response between writer and reader, a game sustained by a network of mutual understandings. In effect, Skulsky provides a reader-friendly manual of the skills we need to be players.

Page count: 306
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $32.95

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Harold Skulsky is the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at Smith College and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Hofstra University. His other works include Spirits Finely Touched: The Testing of Value and Integrity in Four Shakespearean Plays (Georgia), Metamorphosis: The Mind in Exile, Milton and the Death of Man: Humanism on Trial in “Paradise Lost,” and Staring into the Void: Spinoza, the Master of Nihilism.