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Traditionally, Christian martyrdom is a repetition of the story of Christ’s suffering and death: the more closely the victim’s narrative replicates the Christological model, the more legible the martyrdom. But if the textual construction of martyrdom depends on the rehearsal of a paradigmatic story, how does the discourse reconcile the broad range of individuals, beliefs, and persecutions seeking legitimation by claims of martyrdom? By observing how martyrdom is constructed through the interplay of historical event and literary form, Alice Dailey explores the development of English martyr discourse through the period of intense religious controversy from the heresy executions of Queen Mary to the regicide of 1649. Through close study of texts ranging from late medieval passion drama and hagiography to John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, martyrologies of the Counter-Reformation, Charles I’s Eikon Basilike, and John Milton’s Eikonoklastes, The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution considers the shifting religiopolitical rhetoric of Reformation England. By putting history and literary form in dialogue, Dailey describes not only the reformation of one of the oldest, most influential genres of the Christian West but a revolution in the very concept of martyrdom. In England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, martyrdom develops from medieval notions of strict typological repetition, she argues, into Charles I’s defense of individual conscience—an abstract, figurative form of martyrdom that survives into modernity. Rather than being a static genre, martyrology emerges in Dailey’s study as deeply nuanced and subtly responsive to historical circumstance.
Soldier Poets in the Age of Shakespeare
English Mercuries examines war and literature through the writings of veterans who came home from their deployments to pursue literary careers. From their often neglected writings emerges a new picture of the Elizabethan world at war. For centuries Elizabethan England has been characterized by booming patriotism and martial energy, and the literature of this period, epitomized in works like Shakespeare’s Henry V, has been seen as celebrating a proud and defiant kingdom unified around its wars with Spain. Beneath this patriotic veneer, however, was a country withering under the costs of seemingly endless military commitments and ripped apart by doubts about the purpose of war and mistrust of state officials who advanced their own political interests through war at the expense of the people who had to fight and pay for it. These misgivings are a powerful undercurrent in much of the literature of the period, even the most ostensibly patriotic works, but it is in the writings on war by soldier poets where they are most clearly pronounced. Fashioning themselves as servants of both Mars and Mercury (the god of war and the god of writing), Elizabethan soldier poets focused their war stories on the gritty realities of military campaigning, the price individuals paid for serving the state, and the difficulties of returning to civilian life. The book reconsiders some familiar writers like John Donne and Ben Jonson in the context of their military experiences and provides comprehensive studies of some important but underappreciated soldier poets like Thomas Churchyard, George Gascoigne, and John Harington.
Ethnopoetics and Empire
The specter of Spain rarely figures in our discussions of the drama that is often regarded as the crowning achievement of the English literary Renaissance. Yet dramatists such as Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare are exactly contemporary with England's protracted conflict with the Spanish Empire, a traditional ally turned archetypical adversary. Were these playwrights really so mute with respect to their nation's Spanish troubles? Or have we failed—for reasons cultural and institutional—to hear the Hispanophobic crosstalk that permeated the drama no less than England's other public discourses?
Imagining an early modern public sphere in which dramatists cross pens with proto-imperialists, Protestant polemicists, recusant apologists, and a Machiavellian network of propagandists that included high government officials as well as journeyman printers, Eric Griffin uncovers the rhetorical strategies through which the Hispanophobic perspectives that shaped the so-called Black Legend of Spanish Cruelty were written into English cultural memory. At the same time, he demonstrates that the English were as ready to invoke Spain in the spirit of envious emulation as to demonize the Spanish other as an ethnic agent of intolerance and oppression.
Interrogating the Whiggish orientation that has continued to view the English Renaissance through a haze of Anglo-American triumphalism, English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain recovers the voices of key Spanish participants and the "Hispanized" Catholic resistance, revealing how England and Spain continued to draw upon shared traditions and cultural resources, even during the moments of their most storied confrontation.
Less than twenty years after asserting global dominance in the Seven Years' War, Britain suffered a devastating defeat when it lost the American colonies. Daniel O'Quinn explores how the theaters and the newspapers worked in concert to mediate the events of the American war for British audiences and how these convergent media attempted to articulate a post-American future for British imperial society. Building on the methodological innovations of his 2005 publication Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London, 1770-1800, O’Quinn demonstrates how the reconstitution of British imperial subjectivities involved an almost nightly engagement with a rich entertainment culture that necessarily incorporated information circulated in the daily press. Each chapter investigates different moments in the American crisis through the analysis of scenes of social and theatrical performance and through careful readings of works by figures such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Cowper, Hannah More, Arthur Murphy, Hannah Cowley, George Colman, and Georg Friedrich Handel. Through a close engagement with this diverse entertainment archive, O'Quinn traces the hollowing out of elite British masculinity during the 1770s and examines the resulting strategies for reconfiguring ideas of gender, sexuality, and sociability that would stabilize national and imperial relations in the 1780s. Together, O'Quinn's two books offer a dramatic account of the global shifts in British imperial culture that will be of interest to scholars in theater and performance studies, eighteenth-century studies, Romanticism, and trans-Atlantic studies.
Vol. 31 (2005) through current issue
English Studies in Canada is a quarterly journal of scholarship and criticism concerned with all literature written in the English language. It is published by the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English. Subscription rate for hard copy: $90 US, per year.
Vol. 56 (2006) - vol. 57 (2007)
Founded in 1951, by F. W. Bateson, Essays in Criticism soon achieved world-wide circulation, and is today regarded as one of Britain's most distinguished journals of literary criticism. Essays in Criticism covers the whole field of English Literature from the time of Chaucer to the present day. The journal maintains that originality in interpretation must be allied to the best scholarly standards. Moreover, whilst always pursuing new directions and responding to new developments, Essays in Criticism has kept a balance between the constructive and the sceptical, giving the journal particular value at a time when criticism has become so diversified. In addition to the articles, Essays in Criticism has lengthy and searching book reviews, and the 'Critical Opinion' section offers topical discussion on a wide range of literary issues.
Law and Nature in Shakespeare's Problem Plays
In Eternal Bonds, True Contracts, A. G. Harmon closely analyzes Shakespeare’s concentrated use of the law and its instruments in what have often been referred to as the problem plays: Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Contracts, bonds, sureties, wills—all ensure a changed relationship between parties, and in Shakespeare the terms are nearly always reserved for use in the contexts of marriage and fellowship. Harmon explores the theory and practice of contractual obligations in Renaissance England, especially those involving marriage and property, in order to identify contractual elements and their formation, execution, and breach in the plays. Using both legal and literary resources, Harmon reveals the larger significance of these contractual concepts by illustrating how Shakespeare develops them both dramatically and thematically. Harmon’s study ultimately enables the reader to perceive not only these plays but also all of Shakespeare’s writing—including his poetry—as integral with, and implicated in, the proliferating legalism that was helping to define early modern English culture.
George Orwell has been embraced, adopted, and co-opted by everyone from the far left to the neoconservatives. Each succeeding generation of Anglo-American intellectuals has felt compelled to engage the life, work, and cultural afterlife of Orwell, who is considered by many to have been the foremost political writer of the twentieth century. Every Intellectual’s Big Brother explores the ways in which numerous disparate groups, Orwell’s intellectual “siblings,” have adapted their views of Orwell to fit their own agendas and how in doing so they have changed our perceptions of Orwell himself. By examining the politics of literary reception as a dimension of cultural history, John Rodden gives us a better understanding of Orwell’s unique and enduring role in Anglo-American intellectual life. In Part One, Rodden opens the book with a section titled “Their Orwell, Left and Right,” which focuses on Orwell’s reception by several important literary circles of the latter half of the twentieth century. Beginning with Orwell’s own contemporaries, Rodden addresses the ways various intellectual groups of the 1950s responded to Orwell. Rodden then moves on in Part Two to what he calls the “Orwell Confraternity Today,” those contemporary intellectuals who have, in various ways, identified themselves with or reacted against Orwell. The author concludes by examining how Orwell’s status as an object of admiration and detraction has complicated the way in which he has been perceived by readers since his death.
The Virtues of Impurity in Early Modern England
The culture of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain is rarely credited with tolerance of diversity; this period saw a rising pride in national identity, the expansion of colonialism, and glorification of the Anglo-Saxon roots of the country. Yet at the same time, Wolfram Schmidgen observes, the concept of mixture became a critical element of Britons' belief in their own superiority. While the scientific, political, and religious establishment of the early 1600s could not imagine that anything truly formed, virtuous, or durable could be produced by mixing unlike kinds or merging absolute forms, intellectuals at the end of the century asserted that mixture could produce superior languages, new species, flawless ideas, and resilient civil societies.
Exquisite Mixture examines the writing of Robert Boyle, John Locke, Daniel Defoe, and others who challenged the primacy of the one over the many, the whole over the parts, and form over matter. Schmidgen traces the emergence of the valuation of mixture to the political and scientific revolutions of the seventeenth century. The recurrent threat of absolutism in this period helped foster alliances within a broad range of writers and fields of inquiry, from geography, embryology, and chemistry to political science and philosophy. By retrieving early modern arguments for the civilizing effects of mixture, Schmidgen invites us to rethink the stories we tell about the development of modern society. Not merely the fruit of postmodernism, the theorization and valuation of hybridity have their roots in centuries past.
Romance in England after the Reformation
Romances were among the most popular books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries among both Protestant and Catholic readers. Modeled after Catholic narratives, particularly the lives of saints, these works emphasized the supernatural and the marvelous, themes commonly associated with Catholicism. In this book, Tiffany Jo Werth investigates how post-Reformation English authors sought to discipline romance, appropriating its popularity while distilling its alleged Catholic taint. Charged with bewitching readers, especially women, into lust and heresy, romances sold briskly even as preachers and educators denounced them as papist. Protestant reformers, as part of their broader indictment of Catholicism, sought to redirect certain elements of the Christian tradition, including this notorious literary genre. Werth argues that through the writing and circulation of romances, Protestants repurposed their supernatural and otherwordly motifs in order to “fashion,” as Edmund Spenser writes, godly "vertuous" readers. Through careful examinations of the period’s most renowned romances—Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, William Shakespeare’s Pericles, and Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania—Werth illustrates how post-Reformation writers struggled to transform the literary genre. As a result, the romance, long regarded as an archetypal form closely allied with generalized Christian motifs, emerged as a result of the struggle as a central tenet of the religious controversies that divided Renaissance England.