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Massachusetts Studies in Early Modern Culture

Arthur Kinney

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"A Mirror for Magistrates" and the Politics of the English Reformation

Scott C. Lucas

Perhaps no other work of secular poetry was as widely read in Tudor England as the historical verse tragedy collection A Mirror for Magistrates. For over sixty years (1559–1621), this compendium of tragic monologues presented in the voices of fallen political figures from England’s past remained almost constantly in print, offering both exemplary warnings to English rulers and inspiring models for literary authors, including Spenser and Shakespeare. In a striking departure from previous scholarship, Scott Lucas shows that modern critics have misconstrued the purpose of the tragic verse narratives of the Mirror, approaching them primarily as uncontroversial meditations on abstract political and philosophical doctrines. Lucas revises this view, revealing many of the Mirror tragedies to be works topically applicable in form and politically contentious in nature. Lucas returns the earliest poems of A Mirror for Magistrates to the troubled context of their production, the tumultuous reign of the Catholic Queen Mary (1553–1558). As Protestants suffering from the traumatic collapse of King Edward VI’s “godly” rule (1547–1553) and from the current policies of Mary’s government, the Mirror authors radically reshaped their poems’ historical sources in order to craft emotionally moving narratives designed to provide models for interpreting the political failures of Edward VI’s reign and to offer urgent warnings to Marian magistrates. Lucas’s study also reveals how, in later poems, the Mirror authors issued oblique appeals to Queen Elizabeth’s officers, boldly demanding that they allow the realm of “the literary” to stand as an unfettered discursive arena of public controversy. Lucas thus provides a provocative new approach to this seminal but long-misunderstood collection, one that restores the Mirror to its rightful place as one of the greatest works of sixteenth-century English political literature.

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Constituting Old Age in Early Modern English Literature, from Queen Elizabeth to King Lear

Christopher Martin

How did Shakespeare and his contemporaries, whose works mark the last quarter century of Elizabeth I’s reign as one of the richest moments in all of English literature, regard and represent old age? Was late life seen primarily as a time of withdrawal and preparation for death, as scholars and historians have traditionally maintained? In this book, Christopher Martin examines how, contrary to received impressions, writers and thinkers of the era—working in the shadow of the kinetic, long-lived queen herself—contested such prejudicial and dismissive social attitudes. In late Tudor England, Martin argues, competing definitions of and regard for old age established a deeply conflicted frontier between external, socially “constituted” beliefs and a developing sense of an individual’s “constitution” or physical makeup, a usage that entered the language in the mid-1500s. This space was further complicated by internal divisions within the opposing camps. On one side, reverence for the elder’s authority, rooted in religious and social convention, was persistently challenged by the discontents of an ambitious younger underclass. Simultaneously, the aging subject grounded an enduring social presence and dignity on a bodily integrity that time inevitably threatened. In a historical setting that saw both the extended reign of an aging monarch and a resulting climate of acute generational strife, this network of competition and accommodation uniquely shaped late Elizabethan literary imagination. Through fresh readings of signature works, genres, and figures, Martin redirects critical attention to this neglected aspect of early modern studies.

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Forms of Association

Making Publics in Early Modern Europe

edited by Paul Yachnin and Marlene Eberhart

In today’s connected and interactive world, it is hard to imagine a time when cultural and intellectual interests did not lead people to associate with others who shared similar views and preoccupations. In this volume of essays, fifteen scholars explore how these kinds of relationships began to transform early modern European culture. Forms of Association grows out of the “Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe” (MaPs) project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This scholarly initiative convened an interdisciplinary research team to consider how “publics”—new forms of association built on the shared interests of individuals—developed in Europe from 1500 to 1700. Drawing on a wide array of texts and histories, including the plays of Shakespeare, the legend of Robin Hood, paintings, and music as well as English gossip about France, the contributors develop a historical account of what publics were in early modern Europe. This collaborative study provides a dynamic way of understanding the political dimensions of artistic and intellectual works and opens the way toward a new history of early modernity. Until his death in 2008, the great Renaissance scholar Richard Helgerson was a key participant in the MaPs project. The scholars featured in this volume originally met in Montreal to engage in a critical, commemorative conversation about Helgerson’s work, the issues and questions coming out of the MaPs project, and how Helgerson’s thinking advanced and could in turn be advanced by MaPs. This collection represents the fruits of that conversation.

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