Early Modern Pastoral and Late Medieval Poetry
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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The divide between the medieval and the early modern (or Renaissance) periods is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in studies of the pastoral mode, in which the literature of the Middle Ages is often entirely absent. Either these studies begin with the sixteenthcentury pastoral of Edmund Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender or William...
Chapter One: Medieval Traditions of Writing Rural Labor
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Medieval literature has played a minor role in the literary history of the pastoral mode for an obvious reason: medieval English writers neither imitated Virgil’s Eclogues nor seemed particularly interested in writing about or in the guise of shepherds. This lack of enthusiasm for shepherds does not mean, however, that they are entirely...
Chapter Two: The Invention of the English Eclogue
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Interest in the eclogue form and its shepherds seems to appear (or reappear) almost entirely out of nowhere in early sixteenthcentury England. Although Virgil’s works were certainly known to medieval authors, the Eclogues had very little influence on the development of vernacular literature in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century...
Chapter Three: The Pastoral Mode and Agrarian Capitalism
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The emergence of the pastoral mode has long been understood as a decisive moment in the history of literature but not, interestingly, as a decisive moment in the history of shepherds.1 Yet the rediscovery of Virgil’s Eclogues and the subsequent flourishing of literary imitations, a process that began in the early sixteenth century and continued...
Chapter Four: Transforming Work
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Thus far, this study has argued that the history of pastoral belongs properly to a history of “writing rural labor.” Such a history must take into account not only specific changes in how rural laborers might be represented—the distinguishing characteristics of shepherds, for example, which were discussed in chapters 2 and 3—but also shifts...
Chapter Five: Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender and a Poetry of Rural Labor
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The previous chapters have explored the way in which sixteenth-century pastoral emerged in relation to broader traditions of writing rural labor: the ecclesiastical pastoral, the polemic of the enclosure controversy, and the Piers Plowman tradition. Such a broad approach may seem well-suited for the poetry discussed thus far—the...
Chapter Six: Reading Pastoral in Book 6 of Spenser’s Faerie Queene
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In book 6 of his Faerie Queene (1596) Spenser returns to the pastoral mode, but this is a far more self-consciously courtly version that seems to have little or nothing to do with the broader traditions of writing rural labor that helped to shape the Calender. Indeed, the defining feature of this pastoral episode is the life of ease, otium,...
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The Renaissance has long been understood as a beginning: of the individual, of historical consciousness, of new literary forms. Although medievalists have tried to modify this defining characteristic by pushing these beginnings back to the Middle Ages, it still remains to be seen whether the Renaissance can ever shake its associations with beginnings...
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About the Author, Back Cover
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 1 halftone
Publication Year: 2013