The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace

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Brian Cummings examines the place of literature in the Reformation, considering both how arguments about biblical meaning and literary interpretation influenced the new theology, and how developments in theology in turn influenced literary practices. Part One focuses on Northern Europe, reconsidering the relationship between Renaissance humanism (especially Erasmus) and religious ideas (especially Luther). Parts Two and Three examine Tudor and early Stuart England. Part Two describes the rise of vernacular theology and protestant culture in relation to fundamental changes in the understanding of the English language. Part Three studies English religious poetry (including Donne, Herbert, and in an Epilogue, Milton) in the wake of these changes. Bringing together genres and styles of writing which are normally kept apart (poems, sermons, treatises, commentaries), Cummings offers a major re-evaluation of the literary production of this intensely verbal and controversial period.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brian Cummings' book exhibits the admirable ambition—amply justified by the results, to inquire anew into how humanism with its concern in the arts and sciences of language, was implicated in the theological controversies of the Reformation period. To this task he brings a high degree of expertise in a number of fields: literary criticism, cultural history, theological controversy, the history of grammar, linguistics, and post-structuralist textual theory. Cummings makes them cohere and , even better, illuminate one another with remarkable ease." —Religion & Literature

"A groundbreaking and immensely important book. Cummings links an impressive knowledge of sixteenth-century theology and humanist culture to a penetrating analysis of linguistic issues and problems to produce literary criticism of the highest order."—Times Literary Supplement

"Cummings's detailed attention to humanist biblical scholarship, and his wide-ranging account of the myriad ways this scholarship affects the production of religious discourse and devotional literature, make this big book one of the truly important publications of the year."—Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

"Cummings' book is a major contribution to the history of humanism and of The Reformation, the history of the signifier and of argument, language and literary culture and religion and society, and the study of Calvin, Donne, and many more giants of The Renaissance. Highly recommended. It shines with wisdom no computer can provide."—Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198187356
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/13/2003
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Sussex
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Table of Contents

Note for the Reader
List of Illustrations
1 The Reformation and Literary Culture 15
I Grammatical Culture: Medieval to Renaissance 20
II Words and Things: Montaigne of Language 26
III The Textuality of the Ninety-Five Theses 30
IV Letter and Spirit: Luther's 1520 Pamphlets and More's Responsio 38
V The Gift of Language 47
Pt. 1 Humanism and Theology in Northern Europe 1512-1527
2 The Reformation of the Reader 57
I Narratives of Conversion 60
II Luther the Reader 68
III From Luther to Augustine 79
IV Grammatica Theologica: Lectures on Psalms and Romans 88
V Justifying God 96
3 New Grammar and New Theology 102
I Erasmus's Novum Instrumentum and the New Grammar 104
II Erasmus and the Schools 111
III Scholastic Luther or Humanist Luther? 118
IV Humanism and the Modi Significandi 127
V Speech Acts: Solecisms and Felicities 135
4 Erasmus Contra Luther 144
I The Politics of Interpretation 145
II The Proof-Text: Erasmus and Luther on Ecclesiasticus 15 156
III Imperative versus Indicative 159
IV The Theologian and the Grammarian 167
V The Potter and the Clay 175
Pt. 2 The English Language and the English Reformations 1521-1603
5 Vernacular Theology 187
I Different Tongues: More versus Tyndale 190
II The Fall of Language 196
III Englishing Grammar 206
IV Theology Wars: The Reign of Henry VIII 213
V Wyatt's Writing Lesson: The Penitentiall Psalms 223
6 Protestant Culture 232
I Cultural Reformation: Bucer in England 233
II Calvin's Commentaries 246
III The Logic of Calvinism 252
IV Original Defection: Sidney's Defence Poesie 264
V Literature Anti-Literature 270
Pt. 3 Literature and the English Reformations 1580-1640
7 Calvinist and Anti-Calvinist 281
I English Calvinist Culture 283
II Predestination and Certainty: The Lambeth Articles 287
III Fulke Greville's Beliefs: The Confidence of the Flesh 297
IV Purloined Letters: Andrewes, Hooker, Herbert, and Anti-Calvinism 308
V Herbert's The Temple: Grace and the Gift 319
8 Recusant Poetry 328
I Robert Southwell's Tears 330
II Repentance and Justification at the Council of Trent 339
III Confessional Poetry 346
IV Conditions of Grace: Saint Peters Complaint 355
9 God's Grammar 365
I Donne's Conversions 366
II Campion's Brag and Campion's Bloody Reasons 378
III The Noise of the Holy Sonnets 385
IV Donne's Dangerous Question 396
V Shall Be, That Is, May Be 406
10 Revolutionary English 421
I The Necessary Fall 422
II Milton's English 424
III Language and Error 427
Bibliography 432
Primary Sources 432
Secondary Sources 444
Index 461
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