The Anatomy of Melancholy

Dustin Illingworth at The Paris Review:

William Gass has written of the book’s “terminological greed,” a phrase that goes some way in preparing the reader for The Anatomy’s extraordinary surfeit. Burton the anatomist reaches us as a thoroughly modern figure, a gathering of vibrant and contradictory energies. He is a model of inconsistency, equally at home in sense and nonsense, science and superstition, asceticism and sensuality. He apologizes for the length of his digressions only to plunge into yet more. The resultant overgrowth of text is a sort of radiant miscellany; an accumulation of conjecture, proof, rumor, and heresy; endless lists of proper names, foods, herbs, symptoms, profligate et ceteras, disputations, and lengthy essays within essays. Though not itself a novel, Burton’s fabulous act of literary excess prefigures the encyclopedic postwar fictions of the twentieth century—Gravity’s RainbowJ RUnderworld—in which poetics and technics came together to approximate the informational density of culture.

more here.