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  • Release Date: 2006-01-01
  • Genre: Religion & Spirituality

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Description

While literary frauds appeared more frequently during the Augustan Age, one of the most notorious published hoaxes took Restoration England, the continent and the New World, quite literally, by storm. During the summer of 1668, Henry Neville's utopian fiction, The Isle of Pines, dazzled readers with a fictional--yet plausible--account of the shipwreck of the Elizabethan bookkeeper George Pines and what would become his four female sexual partners. To help shore up the veracity of this polygamous fantasy, the July 27, 1668 edition included a polyptych frontispiece with four pictorial panels depicting climactic occasions in the narrative plot (see Figures 4-8). The tabloid charm of the story's visual corollary was, however, just as deceptive as it was intriguing, and was added, as the narrator, Cornelius Van Sloetten, suggests, to persuade any doubting "Nullifidians," who "believe nothing but what they see" (30). While representing utopias in visual form imposed an artistic challenge for early modern engravers, most met the task in a variety of creative ways. What makes The Isle of Pines distinct among its utopian contemporaries is the engraver's minimalist approach to the story and the fact that close attention to narrative detail was not a priority. While it was not unusual for book illustrations to collapse the various events of a tale into a single scene--Jacob Tonson's famous illustrations for Dryden's Ovid's Metamorphoses (1717) come to mind--what is unique about Neville's frontispiece is the manner in which the engraver blue-penciled the July 27 version, ultimately venturing several imaginative and nautical miles away from the original text. Loosely episodic and highly selective, the accompanying pictures deliberately misrepresent and undermine the story's Dionysian bent by not only repressing the sex but also by excising the corresponding violence.