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Literature and Architecture in Early Modern England

Anne M. Myers

Publication Year: 2012

Buildings tell stories. Castles, country homes, churches, and monasteries are “documents” of the people who built them, owned them, lived and died in them, inherited and saved or destroyed them, and recorded their histories. Literature and Architecture in Early Modern England examines the relationship between sixteenth- and seventeenth-century architectural and literary works. By becoming more sensitive to the narrative functions of architecture, Anne M. Myers argues, we begin to understand how a range of writers viewed and made use of the material built environment that surrounded the production of early modern texts in England. Scholars have long found themselves in the position of excusing or explaining England’s failure to achieve the equivalent of the Italian Renaissance in the visual arts. Myers proposes that architecture inspired an unusual amount of historiographic and literary production, including poetry, drama, architectural treatises, and diaries. Works by William Camden, Henry Wotton, Ben Jonson, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert, Anne Clifford, and John Evelyn, when considered as a group, are texts that overturn the engrained critical notion that a Protestant fear of idolatry sentenced the visual arts and architecture in England to a state of suspicion and neglect.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I could not have completed this book alone, and I am glad to have this opportunity to acknowledge a few of the many institutions and individuals that have supported the project. First, the book has benefited from several sources of financial assistance. I am grateful to the University of California, Los Angeles, for the dissertation ...

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Introduction: Building Stories: Writing about Architecture in Post-Reformation England

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pp. 1-22

In approximately 1536, John Leland began the first of several journeys around various parts of England with the goal of rescuing English history. Leland was driven by a special sense of urgency; for him, the dissolution of the monasteries threatened the loss of England’s historical record. ...

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1. Loss and Foundations: Camden’s Britannia and the Histories of English Architecture

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pp. 23-49

Quite rationally, most histories of English architectural writing begin with books that are actually about architecture. As the introduction to this study points out, this is a sparse and attenuated category in pre-Restoration England. Nonetheless, a handful of original and translated treatises by John Shute, Hans Blum, Sebastian Serlio, ...

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2. Aristocrats and Architects: Henry Wotton and the Country House Poem

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pp. 50-76

What happens to the figure of the architect in the narrative and historical modes of architectural description of early modern England exemplified in William Camden’s Britannia? Most histories of English architecture have tracked the development of the professional architect primarily through the assimilation of classical and Continental models ...

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3. Strange Anthologies: The Alchemist in the London of John Stow

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pp. 77-104

Moving from the genres and settings of the country house poem and county chorography, with which the first two chapters have been primarily concerned, we now consider the distinctive architecture of early modern London in two roughly contemporary texts that are rarely paired: John Stow’s Survey of London (1598) and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610).1 ...

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4. Restoring “The Church-porch”: George Herbert’s Architectural History

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pp. 105-131

The monasteries and churches of William Camden’s Britannia (see Chapter 1) exemplified how religious architecture might carry associations for the early modern reader or viewer that had nothing to do with its Calvinist, Catholic, or Laudian allegiances. Camden often valued such buildings as repositories of local history, ...

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5. Construction Sites: The Architecture of Anne Clifford’s Diaries

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pp. 132-159

As critics have noted, the late diaries and the architectural projects of Lady Anne Clifford (1590–1676) were both parts of an elaborate plan to prove that she had been wronged more than forty years earlier. In 1605 her father, George Clifford, died, leaving his lands and titles to his brother and his brother’s heirs, rather than to Anne, his only daughter; ...

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6. Recollections: John Evelyn and the Histories of Restoration Architecture

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pp. 160-190

In the history of English architecture, John Evelyn is almost important. Howard Colvin includes him in the Biographical Dictionary of English Architects as “a virtuoso whose theoretical knowledge of architecture was probably as considerable as that of Roger North or Roger Pratt, but who (unlike them) appears rarely to have put it to practical use.”1 ...

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Coda: St. Helen’s Bishopsgate: Antiquarianism and Aesthetics in Modern London

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pp. 191-204

On April 10, 1992, the church of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in the City of London was severely damaged by an Irish Republican Army bomb. The incident seemed to end an extraordinary run of luck: the medieval church, which had its roots in a thirteenth-century nunnery, had “miraculously” survived both the Great Fire of 1666 ...


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pp. 205-228


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pp. 229-244


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pp. 245-253

E-ISBN-13: 9781421408002
E-ISBN-10: 1421408007
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421407227
Print-ISBN-10: 1421407221

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 19 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 823896934
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Literature and Architecture in Early Modern England

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Subject Headings

  • English literature -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Architecture and literature -- History -- 16th century.
  • Architecture and literature -- History -- 17th century.
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