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Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. viii + 268 pp. index. $45. ISBN: 0-19-514295-0.
Guilty Creatures, a study of the English Renaissance "killing poem," explores the author's creative and ethical responsibility for his creation. For this study's purposes, a "killing poem" may be an elegy, epic, closet drama, tragedy, or history play whose self-reflexive literary strategies direct the reader's attention to the author's violation of the subject position of the character he creates. "At the most figurative level ... the killing poem destroys its subject not by representing its death, but by revealing that subject's lack of ownership of its own representation" (15). Kezar emphasizes the "self-consciousness attending literary killing--the representation of a violence that itself reflects upon the violence of representation" (6). Guilty Creatures seeks to discover the distinction between representational and interpretative killing by investigating how the "poet and audience collaborate in producing a literary death" (7).
This study begins with John Skelton's elegy, Phyllyp Sparowe, and in doing so, Kezar establishes "that the killing poem need not shed blood to produce a body" (15). In seeking to immortalize Phyllyp Sparowe in her needlework, the poetic subject, Jane, …