Renaissance is one of the most important periods when it comes to the chronological graph of English literature. Various theorists and historians have developed their own theories in terms of renaissance ideologies, style, fashion so on and so forth. This article aims at representing the shift and transformation that was brought about by the movement during the Renaissance period with the reference with reference to Stephen Greenblatt’s work. Greenblatt gives a vivid idea of the transformation that took place in the 16th century which brought about a fashion sense which made them realize that they could be transformed and fashioned in a way that would make a change.
The central thematic idea of this transformation is not the autonomy, but the perception. This change is quite difficult to express in a vivid manner because it is not only complex but the mode is dialectical. However, the simplest observation that one can make here is that the 16th century brought about a collective sense of self-consciousness among the people. Such self-consciousness had been once wide spread among the classical people but Christianity made a shift happen in the perspective which simply brought a growing suspicion of man’s power to govern.
Renaissance brought about a collective consciousness in terms of all kinds all social, political, psychological and economic domains which has completely changed the world since then.
Spenser in The Faerie Queene puts forward a sense of self-consciousness towards fashion which had never been seen in Chaucer’s poetry. Knight Calidore can be considered a representative who brought forward this consciousness in literature and the society at a larger scale.
Greenblatt also explains the kind of this sense of “fashion” and he mentions how even the figure of Lord Christ in the New Testament has been shown as a figure with a sense of fashion within himself. Apart from that, this fashion gives rise to considerable anxiety, self-doubt and acquires a new range of meaning.
The role of literature in bringing forward this transformation in the society has also been highlighted by Greenblatt. According to him literature functions as a driving mechanism that helps to bring about this sense of self-doubt and pushes further to re-imagine their sense of existence.
A common factor in all the significant figures of the sixteenth century is their depiction of mobility from different perspectives that ends up showing the similar sense of transformation.
There is no such thing as a “single history of the self” of the sixteenth century. In order to express the sense of self-fashioning of the period, Greenblatt gives a few more points in a detailed manner. Self-fashioning according to him involves submission to an absolute power, supposedly an external one (God or some sacred book or something like that).
Self-fashioning is achieved from something which apparently seems to be something alien/strange/hostile. When one authority or alien is destroyed, another one immediately takes place. Therefore self-fashioning can be presumed to be something which is achieved at the point of encounter between an authority and an alien.
– Suvasree Bandyopadhyay