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At Zero Point presents an entirely new way of looking at Restoration culture, discourse, and satire. The book locates a rupture in English culture and epistemology not at the end of the eighteenth century (when it occurred in France) but at the end of the seventeenth century. Rose Zimbardo’s hypothesis is based on Hans Blumenberg’s concept of “zero point”—the moment when an epistemology collapses under the weight of questions it has itself raised and simultaneously a new epistemology begins to construct itself. Zimbardo demonstrates that the Restoration marked both the collapse of the Renaissance order and the birth of modernism (with its new conceptions of self, nation, gender, language, logic, subjectivity, and reality). Using satire as the site for her investigation, Zimbardo examines works by Rochester, Oldham, Wycherley, and the early Swift for examples of Restoration deconstructive satire that, she argues, measure the collapse of Renaissance epistemology. Constructive satire, as exemplified in works by Dryden, has at its discursive center the “I” from which all order arises to be projected to the external world. No other book treats Restoration culture or satire in this way.

Rose A. Zimbardo is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita whose previous books include A Mirror to Nature: Transformations in Drama and Aesthetics, 1660-1732.

"Zimbardo invites readers to examine concepts of gender, nation, self, and language in the literature of the Restoration period and be persuaded that its satire is both deconstructive and constructive."—Choice

"Stimulating and persuasive."—In-Between

"Effectively challenges easy assumptions of the referentiality of Restoration satire and drama and stresses the literary context."—Journal of English and Germanic Philology

"Only rarely does such a radical reexamination of culture occur, and Zimbardo's At Zero Point brings new insights into both Renaissance and Restoration scholarship."—Rocky Mountain Review

"Zimbardo's point is that we, like Wycherley's generation, are at zero point, caught between a 'deconstructive' period—the 1960s, with their attack on 'the strangling social fictions of the establishment'—and a reactionary one—the 1990s, era of 'the new holy nationalism, conservatism, and racism.'"—Seventeenth-Century News

"An important and provocative book, with rewarding turns to authorship, gender, and nationalism."—Studies in English Literature

"One of the most ambitious books this year. . . . Stimulating and innovative, bringing an interesting mix of neglected and canonical texts to our attention."—Year’s Work in English Studies

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






English satire, English Restoration, Epistemology, Discourse analysis


Literature in English, British Isles

At Zero Point: Discourse, Culture, and Satire in Restoration England
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