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Shadowing the Divine and the Diabolical in Early Modern English Literature
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Renaissance Society of America Proposed Panel
In Book V of Paradise Lost, Raphael aptly summarizes the difficulties of communicating sacred truths to the human consciousness: “how shall I relate / To human sense th’ invisible exploits / …; how last unfould / The secrets of another World, perhaps / Not lawful to reveal?” His intriguing suggestion that earth may be “but the shaddow of Heav’n” invokes a rich complex of early modern traditions that view “the shadow” as an image of the divide between the worldly and the otherworldly, and a figure that can potentially bridge that divide. This panel examines ways early modern English literature exploits and explores “the shadow” in its attempts to mend the gap between material and spiritual worlds felt to be intimately connected, yet inextricably divided. We invite papers on early modern English texts of any genre that examine the various intellectual discourses that contribute to the understanding of literature as a “shadowy” medium, and that use literary techniques to shade, shadow, or foreshadow the divine and diabolical. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the imitative versus incarnational nature of literary shadows; literary modes and methods of shadowing, such as genre, allegory, metaphor, aphorism, or emblem; theories of shadows drawn from the visual arts; the “shades” of ghosts and apparitions; shadows as portals to the sacred/sinister; Neoplatonism; scriptural hermeneutics; literal and figurative veils; the shadow as trope for the difficulties and hazards of interpretation; and literary forms as vehicles suited for adumbrating ineffable and potentially illicit mysteries.