Outstanding, in-depth scholarship by renowned literary critics; great starting point for students seeking an introduction to the theme and the critical discussions surrounding it.
This book, which concerns the general topic of rebellion, is organized according to the same principles as other volumes in the Critical Insights series. It explores works in varied genres—novels, short fiction, poetry, drama, and films—from a broad range of different critical perspectives. The volume’s opening section, which includes four essays devoted to particular Critical Contexts, introduces various ways of looking at the book’s central theme. The second section, Critical Readings, offers specific readings of varied individual works. Various helpful resources appear in the book’s final section.
The volume opens with a flagship essay, “On Rebels and Rebellion in Literature,” by Christopher Baker. Baker surveys numerous aspects of the topic and touches on many particular texts. He argues, for instance, that “rebel outsiders remind us that literary rebels of all kinds may be morally conflicted and not always sympathetic,” but that “the most compelling of them take us into their struggles, sometimes against our will, in ways that linger in the memory.” Literary rebels, Baker contends, “confront us with the problems we would prefer not to face or the lies we have become used to telling ourselves, calling upon us to reexamine comfortable assumptions or beliefs.” Such rebels “in all their guises instruct us in the art of resistance against opponents good and bad, in battles waged not only with weapon or claw but with the raised fist, the muttered curse, the quiet choice.”
The Critical Contexts section of the book, like the volume as a whole, has been organized essentially in chronological order. Thus, the first of the contextual essays—by Robert C. Evans—compares and contrasts the male speakers who often appear as “Rebels in Renaissance Love Poetry.” Covering works by a number of writers, Evans argues that the men who often pursue women in English erotic verse of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries frequently resemble latter-day stalkers. In what senses, though, are these stalkers “rebels”? Evans contends that they are rebellious in many ways: “First and foremost, the speakers in these love poems are rebelling against standard Christian teachings of their era—teachings taken quite seriously by people who lived at that time.” This means, Evans contends, “that the stalkers are ultimately rebelling against God.” The men speaking in these poems are often “making idols of the women they worship, even though the women discourage such idolatry.” Moreover, “as the men will often openly admit, they are rebelling against the dictates of reason and reasonable behavior.” In addition, they are “rebelling against codes of common decency widely practiced in their own times and later.” In all these ways, then (according to Evans), the speakers of many Renaissance “love poems” are frequently rebellious, highly comical fools.
Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:
- Further Readings
- Detailed Bibliography
- Detailed Biography of the Editor
- General Subject Index
Rebellion is a topic of never-ending relevance, whether it concerns Robin Hood in the English Middle Ages, Satan before earthly time began, various kinds of rebellions conceived and depicted in literature from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, or even rebellions set in imagined galaxies or futures far, far away from our present places, era, and existences.