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By Mary Ann Lund

The Anatomy of depression, first released in 1621, is among the maximum works of early sleek English prose writing, but it has obtained little giant literary feedback in recent times. This examine situates Robert Burton's advanced paintings inside 3 similar contexts: spiritual, clinical and literary/rhetorical. Analysing Burton's declare that his textual content must have healing results on his melancholic readership, it examines the authorial building of the analyzing technique within the context of alternative early sleek writing, either canonical and non-canonical, delivering a brand new procedure in the direction of the rising box of the historical past of studying. Lund responds to Burton's statement that depression is an disease of physique and soul which calls for either a non secular and a corporal healing, exploring the theological complexion of Burton's writing relating to English non secular discourse of the early 17th century, and the prestige of his paintings as a scientific textual content.

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Burton creates a rhetorical construction of the reader as an unknowable and invisible figure, deliberately emphasising his or her distance from the author and treating this as a beneficial aspect of publication. While parts of the Anatomy are targeted at specific types of reader, Burton encourages readers to profit from the work as a whole rather than select only what is immediately relevant to them. The chapter concludes by considering the nature of readerly ‘experience’ in Burton, his imitator Edmund Gregory, Thomas Nashe and Michel de Montaigne.

42 Robert D. Hume, ‘Texts within Contexts: Notes toward a Historical Method’, PQ 71 (1992), 69–100 (80). 38 39 The reader in history 17 critics have made use of evidence such as personal accounts of reading, marginalia and book lists in order to construct a picture of real readers. 45 This burgeoning field has provided much enlightening information about early modern reading practices and their differences from those of our own time, redressing the bias towards an ahistorical understanding of reading which was created by much reader-response criticism.

Literary, ethical and theological aspects of curative writing are interwoven throughout the Anatomy, and brought together in the image of the gilded pill. The image draws out the complex qualities of movere which are the legacy of classical and early Christian rhetorical theory, and which he inherits and appropriates. There is an ethical sense in the phrase ‘rectif[ying] the minde’, which suggests the reformative powers asserted by ancient moral philosophy, and there are also the medicinal properties Augustine, On Christian Teaching, trans.

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