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The Risks of Simile in Renaissance Rhetoric

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Shirley Sharon-Zisser

The Risks of Simile in Renaissance Rhetoric is a groundbreaking study of the fascination with simile in Renaissance rhetoric and poetics. Moving Renaissance studies beyond the limitations of new historicism, Shirley Sharon-Zisser demonstrates that Renaissance rhetoricians anticipated the interest of psychoanalysis in the links between desire and language. The book traces the erotics of simile and of the related rhetorical categories of figure, trope, metaphor, and the primal substance of signification in Renaissance rhetoric books. Sharon-Zisser shows Renaissance rhetoricians associate simile with archaic maternality, with pastoral, with the omphalic, with multiple forms of sexuality, and with the jouissance of asymmetrical approximation. The psychoanalysis of Renaissance aesthetics of simile shows the structure of desire is not, as Lacan would have it, metonymic. Desire has the structure of the similaic.