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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyses Ben Jonson’s Timber, or Discoveries, in terms of its genre as a prose miscellany and its concentration on interrelated Jonsonian themes of ethics, politics, and rhetorical style. In particular, it locates Discoveries within the classical and Renaissance miscellany traditions and argues that Jonson’s imitations, borrowings, and adaptations of others’ works in this piece are characteristic of his authorial practice in multiple ways. The purpose of Discoveries, it is argued, is to represent Jonson’s humanistic process of self-fashioning through creative assimilation of texts by other authoritative writers. A governing trope in this discussion is that of the ‘Senecan bee’ that goes from flower to flower, taking nectar from each and assimilating it all into something sweet, nourishing, and new. Jonson’s approving invocation of this metaphor makes it an apt emblem of his own approach to composition. The chapter also surveys critical opinion on the degree to which Discoveries is a finished work, and on Jonson’s intentions for it.

Keywords: Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries, miscellany, commonplace book, imitation, prose style, politics, Stoicism, Seneca, ethics

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