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Defending Literature in Early Modern England
Renaissance Literary Theory in Social Context


Part of Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: December 2006
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521035187

£ 40.99

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About the Authors
  • Why was literature so often defended and defined in early modern England in terms of its ability to provide the Horatian ideal of both profit and pleasure? This book, first published in 2000, analyses Renaissance literary theory in the context of social transformations of the period, focusing on conflicting ideas about gentility that emerged as the English aristocracy evolved from a feudal warrior class to a civil elite. Through close readings centered on works by Thomas Elyot, Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser, Matz argues that literature attempted to mediate a complex set of contradictory social expectations. His original study engages with important theoretical work such as Pierre Bourdieu's and offers a substantial critique of New Historicist theory. It challenges recent accounts of the power of Renaissance authorship, emphasizing the uncertain status of literature during this time of cultural change, and sheds light on why and how canonical works became canonical.

    • Provides rich historical context for canonical works of Thomas Elyot, Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser along with detailed readings
    • Offers substantial criticism of New Historicist theory
    • Engages with the work of recent economic and social historians as well as with modern theoretical work, notably Pierre Bourdieu
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Matz provides both insightful readings and an important rethinking of the social, intellectual, and literary contexts of the Renaissance's concern with the place and function of literature.' Early Modern Literary Studies

    'Matz's readings are lucid and well grounded and they help to stimulate new thinking …' Shakespeare Yearbook

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2006
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521035187
    • length: 204 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.315kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: 'aut prodesse … aut delectare'
    2. Recreating reading: Elyot's Boke Named the Governour
    3. Heroic diversions: Sidney's Defence of Poetry
    4. A 'gentle discipline': Spenser's Faerie Queene
    5. Epilogue: from text to work?

  • Author

    Robert Matz, George Mason University, Virginia

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