Vulgar Eloquence: On the Renaissance Invention of English Literature / Edition 1

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This original book challenges prevailing accounts of English literary history, arguing that English literature emerged as a distinct category during the late sixteenth century, as England’s relationship with classical Rome was suffering an unprecedented strain. Exploring the myths through which poets such as Geffrey Whitney, William Shakespeare, and John Milton understood the nature of their art, Sean Keilen shows how they invented archaic origins for a new kind of writing.
When history obliged English poets to regard themselves as victims of the Roman Conquest rather than rightful heirs of classical Latin culture, it also required a redefinition of their relations with Roman literature. Keilen shows how the poets’ search for a new beginning drew them to rework familiar fables about Orpheus, Philomela, and Circe, and invent a new point of departure for their own poetic history.

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Editorial Reviews

Annabel Patterson
"Keilen rethinks the package of ideas and facts we call antiquarianism, so that antiquarian is the last thing they seem."—Annabel Patterson, author of Nobody's Perfect
Leonard Barkan
"Keilen possesses an original, unclassifiable intelligence. He weaves elegantly philological arguments about the antique into a counterplot that illuminates a nativist, unrefined, and hybrid early modern England. Vulgar Eloquence will make us rethink the Spenser-to-Shakespeare-to-Milton canon, not by throwing out classicism and tradition, but by redefining it."—Leonard Barkan, Princeton University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300110128
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/11/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Keilen is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : fables of literature 1
1 Choosing Orpheus : the English eloquence of Whitney's Emblemes 32
2 Shakespeare's "wild musick" 89
3 The ancient neighborhood of Milton's Maske 134
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