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Poetry and Paternity in Renaissance England
Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne and Jonson


  • Date Published: October 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107411371

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About the Authors
  • Becoming a father was the main way that an individual in the English Renaissance could be treated as a full member of the community. Yet patriarchal identity was by no means as secure as is often assumed: when poets invoke the idea of paternity in love poetry and other forms, they are therefore invoking all the anxieties that a culture with contradictory notions of sexuality imposed. This study takes these anxieties seriously, arguing that writers such as Sidney and Spenser deployed images of childbirth to harmonize public and private spheres, to develop a full sense of selfhood in their verse, and even to come to new accommodations between the sexes. Shakespeare, Donne and Jonson, in turn, saw the appeal of the older poets' aims, but resisted their more radical implications. The result is a fiercely personal yet publicly-committed poetry that wouldn't be seen again until the time of the Romantics.

    • Proposes a new approach to Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry, providing English literature scholars with new frameworks for understanding important but often difficult poets
    • Provides fresh close readings of the major poets of the era
    • Develops new ideas about Renaissance selfhood, using and extending recent work in social history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'Enlightening.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'MacFaul's argument is neat and controlled.' Notes and Queries

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107411371
    • length: 286 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Presumptive fathers
    2. Uncertain paternity: the indifferent ideology of patriarchy
    3. The childish love of Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville
    4. Spenser's timely fruit: generation in The Faerie Queene
    5. 'We desire increase': Shakespeare's non-dramatic poetry
    6. John Donne's rhetorical contraception
    7. 'To propagate their names': Ben Jonson as poetic godfather
    Coda: sons.

  • Author

    Tom MacFaul, University of Oxford

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