Selected publications by members of the Centre.
The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500-1640
Ed. Andrew Hadfield (Oxford University Press, 2013)
The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500-1640 is the only current overview of early modern English prose writing. The aim of the volume is to make prose more visible as a subject and as a mode of writing. It covers a vast range of material vital for the understanding of the period: from jestbooks, newsbooks, and popular romance to the translation of the classics and the pioneering collections of scientific writing and travel writing; from diaries, tracts on witchcraft, and domestic conduct books to rhetorical treatises designed for a courtly audience; from little known works such as William Baldwin's Beware the Cat, probably the first novel in English, to The Bible, The Book of Common Prayer and Richard Hooker's eloquent statement of Anglican belief, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. The work not only deals with the range and variety of the substance and types of English prose, but also analyses the forms and styles of writing adopted in the early modern period, ranging from the Euphuistic nature of prose fiction inaugurated by John Lyly's mannered novel, to the aggressive polemic of the Marprelate controversy; from the scatological humour of comic writing to the careful modulations of the most significant sermons of the age; and from the pithy and concise English essays of Francis Bacon to the ornate and meandering style of John Florio's translation of Montaigne's famous collection. Each essay provides an overview as well as comment on key passages, and a select guide to further reading.
Reading Skin in Medieval Literature and Culture
Ed. Katie Walter (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
Skin is a multifarious image in medieval culture: the material basis for forming a sense of self and relation to the world, as well as a powerful literary and visual image. Treating key medieval English texts and traditions, from romance and exemplum to technical treatises and encyclopedias, the essays in this collection show the subject of skin to be a peculiarly resistant and revealing mode of reading texts, highlighting not the hierarchy, but the interdependency of the senses, and laying bare the intimacy of the human, the animal, the divine and the monstrous in medieval natural philosophy, pastoralia and ethics, and the literary imagination.
Edmund Spenser – A Life
Andrew Hadfield (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Edmund Spenser's innovative poetic works have a central place in the canon of English literature. Yet he is remembered as a morally flawed, self-interested sycophant; complicit in England's ruthless colonisation of Ireland; in Karl Marx's words, 'Elizabeth's arse-kissing poet' – a man on the make who aspired to be at court and who was prepared to exploit the Irish to get what he wanted. In his vibrant and vivid book, the first biography of the poet for 60 years, Andrew Hadfield finds a more complex and subtle Spenser. How did a man who seemed destined to become a priest or a don become embroiled in politics? If he was intent on social climbing, why was he so astonishingly rude to the good and the great – Lord Burghley, the earl of Leicester, Sir Walter Ralegh, Elizabeth I and James VI? Why was he more at home with 'the middling sort' – writers, publishers and printers, bureaucrats, soldiers, academics, secretaries, and clergymen – than with the mighty and the powerful? How did the appalling slaughter he witnessed in Ireland impact on his imaginative powers? How did his marriage and family life shape his work? Spenser's brilliant writing has always challenged our preconceptions. So too, Hadfield shows, does the contradictory relationship between his between life and his art.
Shakespeare, Alchemy and the Creative Imagination – The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint
Margaret Healy (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
Shakespeare’s Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint constitute a rich tapestry of rhetorical play about Renaissance love in all its guises.
A significant strand of this is spiritual alchemy: working the ‘metal’ of the mind through meditation on love, memory work and intense imagination. Healy demons
trates how this process of anguished soul work – construed as essential to inspired poetic making – is woven into these poems, accounting for their most enigmatic imagery and urgency of tone. The esoteric philosophy of late Renaissance Neoplatonic alchemy, which embraced bawdy sexual symbolism and was highly fashionable in European intellectual circles, facilitated Shakespeare’s poetry. Arguing that Shakespeare’s incorporation of alchemical textures throughout his late works is indicative of an artistic stance promoting religious toleration and unity, this book sets out a crucial new framework for interpreting the 1609 poems, and transforms our understanding of Shakespeare's art.
Renaissance Transformations: The Making of English Writing 1500-1650
Eds Margaret Healy and Thomas Healy (Edinburgh University Press, 2009)
Renaissance Transformations: The Making of English Writing 1500-1650 is a collection of distinctive new essays that explore the dynamic cultural, intellectual and social processes that shaped literary writing in the Renaissance. Acutely attentive to the complexities that we confront in our attempts to understand the past, twelve leading scholars of Renaissance studies explore significant relations among literary form, material and imaginative culture which compel our attention in the 21st century. This innovative, timely volume is of fundamental importance to all those who study and teach Renaissance literature, history and culture.
Literature and Popular Culture in Early Modern England
Eds Matthew Dimmock and Andrew Hadfield (Ashgate, 2009)
1978 witnessed the publication of Peter Burke's groundbreaking study Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. In order to celebrate this achievement, and to explore the ways in which perceptions of popular culture have changed in the intervening years, a group of leading scholars are brought together in this new volume to examine Burke's thesis in relation to England. Taking as its starting point Burke's argument that popular culture was everyone's culture, distinguishing it from high culture, which only a restricted social group could access, the collection explores an intriguing variety of sources to discover whether this was in fact the case in early modern England. It further explores the meaning and significance of the term 'popular culture' when applied to the early modern period: how did people distinguish between high and low culture – could they in fact do so?
The Building of Elizabethan and Jacobean England
Maurice Howard (Yale University Press, 2008)
While the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s resulted in the destruction of much of England’s built fabric, it was also a time in which many new initiatives emerged. In the following century, former monasteries were eventually adapted to a variety of uses: royal palaces and country houses, town halls and schools, almshouses and re-fashioned parish churches. In this beautiful and elegantly argued book, Maurice Howard reveals that changes of style in architecture emerged from the practical needs of construction and the self-image of major patrons in the revolutionary century between Reformation and Civil War.
The Religions of the Book – Christian Perceptions, 1400-1660
Eds Matthew Dimmock and Andrew Hadfield (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
The Religions of the Book explores Christian perceptions of the complex relationship between the 'religions of the book' – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – from 1400 to 1660. This period defines the rise of the Islamic Ottoman and the Catholic Spanish Empires, each with rhetorical – if not actual – claims to global dominance, and the apocalyptic conflict between them. It is also a period in which Christianity and Islam were riven by schism, profoundly complicating notions of just and holy war. Similarly, the connections between Christianity and Judaism were subject to continual debate and a wide range of responses. These expansive and interdisciplinary essays question how Christianity was understood in relation to others 'of the book'; the comprehension of common religious narratives and geography; and the nature of their conflict and co-existence. This collection demonstrates how the interaction of these three religions is crucial for an understanding of the period 1400 to 1660.
New Turkes: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Modern England
Matthew Dimmock (Ashgate, 2005)
Early Modern England was obsessed with the 'turke'. Following the first Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1529 the printing presses brought endless prayer sheets, pamphlets and books concerning this 'infidel' threat before the public in the vernacular for the first time. As this body of knowledge increased, stimulated by a potent combination of domestic politics, further Ottoman incursions and trade, English notions of Islam and of the 'turke' became nuanced in a way that begins to question the rigid assumptions of traditional critical enquiry. New Turkes: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Modern England explores the ways in which print culture helped define and promulgate a European construction of 'Turkishness' that was nebulous and ever-shifting. By placing in context the developing encounters between the Ottoman and Christian worlds, it shows how ongoing engagements reflected the nature of the 'Turke' in 16th-century English literature. By offering readings of texts by artists, poets and playwrights – especially canonical figures like Kyd, Marlowe and Shakespeare – a bewildering variety of approaches to Islam and the 'turke' is revealed fundamentally questioning any dominant, defining narrative of 'otherness'.
Fictions of Disease in Early Modern England: Bodies, Plays and Politics
Margaret Healy (Palgrave, 2001)
How did early modern people imagine their bodies? What impact did the new disease syphilis and recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague have on these mental landscapes? Why was the glutted belly such a potent symbol of pathology? Fictions of Disease is a unique exploration of the stories laymen and physicians constructed around such bodies, producing a fascinating cultural imaginary of bodily disorder. Healy argues that these narratives not only shaped visions of unhealthy social bodies, but had profound political consequences too. City spaces, social and religious structures, economic initiatives, and drastic decisions about how to cure the disease at the head of the English body, were fashioned by circulating fictions of ‘plaguy’, ‘pocky’ and ‘glutted’ bodies. Ranging from the Reformation through the English civil war, this original approach opens an important new window of understanding onto the period’s disease-impregnated literature, including works by Shakespeare, Milton, Heywood and Dekker.