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Eucharist and the Poetic Imagination in Early Modern England


Part of Ideas in Context

  • Date Published: March 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316648513

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About the Authors
  • The Reformation changed forever how the sacrament of the Eucharist was understood. This study of six canonical early modern lyric poets traces the literary afterlife of what was one of the greatest doctrinal shifts in English history. Sophie Read argues that the move from a literal to a figurative understanding of the phrase 'this is my body' exerted a powerful imaginative pull on successive generations. To illustrate this, she examines in detail the work of Southwell, Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Vaughan and Milton, who between them represent a broad range of doctrinal and confessional positions, from the Jesuit Southwell to Milton's heterodox Puritanism. Individually, each chapter examines how Eucharistic ideas are expressed through a particular rhetorical trope; together, they illuminate the continued importance of the Eucharist's transformation well into the seventeenth century - not simply as a matter of doctrine, but as a rhetorical and poetic mode.

    • Combines a literary approach focused on a close reading of the texts with an understanding of the historical and theological background
    • Assimilates and responds to the increasing attention paid to the Eucharist in literary studies
    • Brings together six canonical early modern English poets and presents each in a stand-alone discussion
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '[An] illuminating guide to the religious and literary culture of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'Read's monograph reasserts the value of formalist literary study for broader questions in the humanities.' Ryan Netzley, Renaissance Quarterly

    'Read has undoubtedly written a valuable book. Every chapter of her study offers nuanced interpretations of early modern poetry in the shifting contexts of the period's eucharistic debates and the rhetorical theories animating them. [This book] should be widely read by those who study the relations between theological controversy and poetic practice in early modern England.' Gary Kuchar, George Herbert Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316648513
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Note on the text
    1. Southwell and paradox
    2. Donne and punning
    3. Herbert and Metanoia
    4. Crashaw and metonymy
    5. Vaughan and synecdoche
    6. Milton and metaphor
    Select bibliography.

  • Author

    Sophie Read, University of Cambridge
    Sophie Read is a University Lecturer in English and Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge.

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