England's Helicon: Fountains in Early Modern Literature and Culture

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England's Helicon is about one of the most important features of early modern gardens: the fountain. It is also a detailed study of works by Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and Ben Jonson, and of an influential Italian romance, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Fountains were "strong points" in the iconography and structure of gardens, symbolically loaded and interpretatively dense, soliciting the most active engagement possible from those who encountered them. These qualities are registered and explored in their literary counterparts.

England's Helicon is not a simple motif study of fountains in English Renaissance literature: it is, rather, an investigation of how each might work; of how literary fountains both inform and are informed by real fountains in early modern literature and culture. While its main focus remains the literature of the late sixteenth century, England's Helicon recognizes that intertextuality and influence can be material as well as literary. It demonstrates that the "missing piece" needed to make sense of a passage in a play, a poem, or a prose romance could be a fountain, a conduit, a well, or a reflecting pool, in general or even in a specific, known garden; it also considers portraits, textiles, jewelry, and other artifacts depicting fountains.

Early modern English gardens and fountains are almost all lost, but to approach them through literary texts and objects is often to recover them in new ways. This is the double project that England's Helicon undertakes; in so doing, it offers a new model for the exploration of the interconnectedness of texts, images, objects and landscapes in early modern literature and culture.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199230785
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/20/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Hester Lees-Jeffries took her first degrees in New Zealand before coming to Cambridge as a UK Commonwealth Scholar in 1999; she completed her doctoral thesis on fountains in Renaissance literature in 2002. She is currently a Fellow and College Lecturer in English at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and was previously a Research Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge. She has published on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Roman de la Rose, Elizabeth I's coronation entry, and works by Sidney, Spenser, Jonson, and Webster, and has worked on the new Cambridge editions of the works of John Webster and Ben Jonson. She is now working on a book about Shakespeare and memory.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Origins
Part 1: Sources and Reflections: The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499) and Sidney's New Arcadia (1582-4)
1. 1 'Some fair book': the Hypnerotomachia in England
2. Reading fountains in the Hypnerotomachia
3. The Fountains of Venus and Adonis: revelation and reflection
4. The Fountain of Aeneas: Sidney rewrites the Hypnerotomachia
Part 2: Living Waters: Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590)
5. Ad fontes: Elizabeth and the English Bible
6. The Christian knight: Redcrosse learns to read
7. The Well of Life: all things made new
8. Fountains seen and unseen
Part 3: Poisoned Springs: Jonson's The Fountaine of Selfe-Love (1600)
9. The public fountain: Elizabethan politics and the humanist tradition
10. A visual metaphor: staging the fountain
11. The fountain of Salmacis: self-love and satire
12. Diana's justice: Essex, Nonsuch and Hampton Court

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