Medieval into Renaissance

Medieval into Renaissance: Essays for Helen Cooper

Copyright Date: 2016
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 308
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    Medieval into Renaissance
    Book Description:

    The borderline between the periods commonly termed "medieval" and "Renaissance", or "medieval" and "early modern", is one of the most hotly, energetically and productively contested faultlines in literary history studies. The essays presented in this volume both build upon and respond to the work of Professor Helen Cooper, a scholar who has long been committed to exploring the complex connections and interactions between medieval and Renaissance literature. The contributors re-examine a range of ideas, authors and genres addressed in her work, including pastoral, chivalric romance, early English drama, and the writings of Chaucer, Langland, Spenser and Shakespeare. As a whole, the volume aims to stimulate active debates on the ways in which Renaissance writers used, adapted, and remembered aspects of the medieval. Andrew King is Lecturer in Medieval and Renaissance Literature at University College, Cork; Matthew Woodcock is Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the University of East Anglia. Contributors: Joyce Boro, Aisling Byrne, Nandini Das, Mary C. Flannery, Alexandra Gillespie, Andrew King, Megan G. Leitch, R.W. Maslen, Jason Powell, Helen Vincent, James Wade, Matthew Woodcock

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-627-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Contributors (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-ix)
  6. Abbreviations (pp. x-x)
  7. Introduction (pp. 1-14)

    Sic. The more glaringly erroneous and nonsensical claims made about the transition between the medieval and Renaissance periods in W.C. Sellar’s and R.J. Yeatman’s pithy, parodic1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England(1930) are sandwiched between more coherent bold pronouncements of a sort that commonly elicit expressions of scepticism, scorn or caution from scholars of English literature produced before 1600. That is to say, the claim that the Middle Ages ended in 1485, and the implied suggestion that Tudor history and the discovery of the Americas are essentially ‘modern’ – if only early modern – stories, are...

  8. Unknowe, unkow, Vncovthe, uncouth: From Chaucer and Gower to Spenser and Milton (pp. 15-34)

    My discussion, which owes a great deal to the work of Helen Cooper, begins with E.K.’s remarks on the 1579 edition ofThe Shepheardes Calender.¹ Edmund Spenser is not named in this book, but he is in subsequent early editions and in modern editions.² The first substantive point that E.K. makes in his Epistle, which is directed to Gabriel Harvey, is that once the anonymous, ‘vncovthe’ author of the poem to follow is ‘covthe’ he will be irresistibly attractive to readers. The passage in question is well known, but because my analysis of it will be detailed, I reproduce it...

  9. Armour that doesn’t work: An Anti-meme in Medieval and Renaissance Romance (pp. 35-54)
    R. W. MASLEN

    One of Helen Cooper’s finest essays concerns the function of magic that doesn’t work in medieval and Renaissance romance.¹ Bringing together her impish sense of humour, her astonishing range of reading and her infectious delight in tracing the mutations of genre in response to cultural change, the essay is a scholarly tour de force, perhaps the most memorable chapter in her celebrated monographThe English Romance in Time. It is particularly suggestive where it draws attention to the moments in medieval romance when the presence of magic serves to focus the reader’s attention on some peculiarly human quality: on selfless...

  10. ‘Of his ffader spak he no thing’: Family Resemblance and Anxiety of Influence in Fifteenth-Century Prose Romance (pp. 55-72)

    In recent decades, the traditionally disparaged medieval popular romances have received increased attention.¹ Studies of this previously marginalised genre have, however, tended to remain silent about texts at its own margins, such as the Middle English prose romances. The prose romances are even less frequently allowed into conversation with courtly romances, and if they figure anywhere, it is usually in discussions of Arthurian romance. Yet on the other hand, Malory’s Arthuriad still tends to be considered as a genre unto itself, rather than as one among quite a few English prose romances written around the same time. According to Larry...

  11. Writing Westwards: Medieval English Romances and their Early Modern Irish Audiences (pp. 73-90)

    In the early 1630s, the Irish historian Geoffrey Keating addressed the question of the historicity or lack thereof of the pantheon of Gaelic heroes known as theFian. In terms that recall similar debates over Arthur and his knights, he cites oral tradition, ancient documents and surviving monuments as evidence for the reality of these ancient heroes. However, he notes that, even if the individuals involved existed, not everything written about them should be taken as historically accurate:

    Agus dá n-abradh aoinneach nach inchreidthe mórán dar scríobhadh ar an bh-Féin, is deimhin gurab fíor dó é, óir ní raibhe ríoghacht...

  12. Penitential Romance after the Reformation (pp. 91-106)

    An intellectual history of the English Middle Ages might begin in 1570, when John Foxe first brackets off a ‘middle age’ between the earliest and purest ‘primitive tyme’ of the church and Foxe’s own time, an era reformed on those primitive – or first – principles.¹ So far as we know, the plural, ‘middle ages’, was not used until 1605, when John Donne similarly uses the term to represent a chronology of Catholic practice. For both writers, periodisation tracks ‘the Ecclesiasticall Story’; here, the steady pace of human time is punctuated by the shifting progress and regress of the church,...

  13. The English Laureate in Time: John Skelton’s Garland of Laurel (pp. 107-122)

    The poetry of John Skelton occupies an uneasy position in time. Unclaimed either by medievalists or by early modernists (or at least fervently claimed by neither), his canon has been relegated by contemporary periodisation to the no man’s land between the late medieval and early modern periods. While aspects of his style and choices of genre recall medieval trends, his politically themed verse reflects the controversies of his own time, controversies in which he was sometimes personally embroiled.² He claims to work in the mould of the great English poets of the medieval period – Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate –...

  14. Thomas Churchyard and the Medieval Complaint Tradition (pp. 123-142)

    Throughout his long literary career, the writer and soldier Thomas Churchyard (c.1529–1604) composed works that display an evident debt to generic traditions commonly found in fourteenth – and fifteenth-century literature (including dream vision, fabliaux, beast fable and estates satire), and that signal the influence of the style, form and concerns of writers such as Chaucer, Langland, Lydgate and Skelton. Churchyard’s use of such traditions and authors is rarely viewed in a positive light, however, and he is frequently criticised or dismissed by modern critics as being backward-looking, conservative and an emblematic representative of what C.S. Lewis infamously termed the...

  15. Placing Arcadia (pp. 143-162)

    Arcadia’s geographical identity as a rough, inhospitable province in Greece is well known. Yet in our shared cultural memory, it is the quintessential locus of the pastoral golden world. For sixteenth-century readers, it emerged from Theocritus’s bucolicIdyllsand Virgil’sEclogues, although neither of them delineates a landscape that fulfils all the criteria that Arcadia suggests within the pastoral tradition. Later, it was loaded with contingent references to the real world in the hands of Petrarch and Boccaccio, and later still, it took recognisable shape in the poem that first carried its name, Jacopo Sannazaro’sArcadia(1504). Sannazaro’s locus is...

  16. Fathers, Sons and Surrogates: Fatherly Advice in Hamlet (pp. 163-186)

    The first scenes ofHamletfamously pose a problem of inheritance.¹ The ghost’s silent appearance in full armour and the country’s preparations for war in the first act recall the ancient world’s most notorious assassination, when ‘ere the mightiest Julius fell,/ The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead/ Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets’ (1.1.117–19). Recent stagings ofJulius Caesarmade these events more familiar for Shakespeare’s audience, and now this ghost, so ‘like the king that’s dead’ (1.1.44), gives ‘even the like precurse of fear’d events,/ As harbingers preceding still the fates/ And prologue to...

  17. ‘To visit the sick court’: Misogyny as Disease in Swetnam the Woman-Hater (pp. 187-208)

    Swetnam The Woman-Hater(performed 1617–19; published 1620) works very hard to publicise its connection to the eponymous character’s namesake, Joseph Swetnam, and to the debate about women to which he contributed so vociferously. The paratext of the 1620 edition advertises the play’s participation in contemporary discussions about the antagonism between the sexes: the complete title isSwetnam the Woman-Hater Arraigned by Women; the titlepage engraving portrays Swetnam’s trial by a female court; and the prologue foregrounds the antagonism between the sexes and the ‘dayes tryall’ of ‘we, poore women’ (pro. 4, 3).¹ Given that Swetnam only appears in six...

  18. The Monument of Uncertainty: Sovereign and Literary Authority in Samuel Sheppard’s The Faerie King (pp. 209-234)

    Samuel Sheppard wrote his extended poemThe Faerie Kingas a tragic-epic response to the events of the English Civil War – in particular the execution of Charles I – over a period of at least five years (c.1648–54). This was a time during which, in Sheppard’s words, ‘violent hands have made/Englanda Den ofDragons’.¹ Much of the work was composed in prison, in particular Newgate Gaol – certainly a den, for Sheppard, of disease and despair, if not quite dragons. Sheppard writes: ‘I languished (surrounded with Dolour, Indigencie, Obloquie with all their Appurtenances) almost fourteene months...

  19. Mopsa’s Arcadia: Choice Flowers Gathered out of Sir Philip Sidney’s Rare Garden into Eighteenth-Century Chapbooks (pp. 235-250)

    In book two of theNew Arcadia, the ignorant peasant girl Mopsa tells a story to the royal ladies Philoclea, Pamela and Zelmane:

    In time past, […] there was a king (the mightiest man in all his country) that had by his wife the fairest daughter that ever did eat pap. Now this king did keep a great house, that everybody might come and take their meat freely. So one day, as his daughter was sitting in her window […] there came a knight into the court upon a goodly horse […]. And so, the knight, casting up his eyes...

  20. Bibliography (pp. 251-272)
  21. Index (pp. 273-278)
  22. A Bibliography of Helen Cooper’s Published Works (pp. 279-284)
  23. Tabula Gratulatoria (pp. 285-285)
  24. Back Matter (pp. 286-286)


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