Conor McKee writes about Robert Southwell’s literal approach to metaphor in ‘Renaissance Studies’, June 2022

Image credit: line engraving by Matthaus Greuter (Greuther) or Paul Maupin, published 1608

Conor McKee’s article in Renaissance Studies considers the use of metaphor in the work of sixteenth-century poet and martyr Robert Southwell. He argues that a number of Southwell’s metaphors have a surprisingly literal quality whereby their vehicles are given greater prominence than their tenors. For instance, looking at Southwell’s presentation of the figurative ‘fires of love’, a stock trope of Petrarchan verse, he shows that it is employed as a way to evoke the literal burning of recusant Catholics. He connects this approach to Southwell’s political context as a dissident poet, showing that our tendency to look past the vehicles of metaphors to their referents allowed him to hide political statements in plain sight.

Conor McKee is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of English and Pembroke College.

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