The Self in Early Modern Literary StudiesTerry G. Sherwood $70.00
Published in 2007 | 384 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0395-4
“Work like this gratifies the desire, however traditional, of readers such as this reviewer to believe in the capacity of literary works to support a responsible civic enterprise. Sherwood's style and method, respectful of his opposition, thoroughly grounded in primary texts and their concerns, supports this objective as much as his argument.” — Renaissance Quarterly
This study is a response to a continuing debate stimulated primarily by cultural materialist and new historicist claims that the early modern self was decentered and fragmented by forces in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. The current study enters this debate by rejecting claims of such radical discontinuity characterizing a “contingent” and “provisional” self incapable of unified subjectivity. The counterargument in The Self in Early Modern Literary Studies: For the Common Good is that the intersection of Protestant vocation and Christian civic humanism, in support of the common good, was a stabilizing factor in early modern construction of self that resisted historical and cultural dislocations.
The theoretical issues at stake are examined in an introductory chapter, followed by chapters discussing central aspects of five major early modern writers whose works variously incorporate elements in Protestant vocation and Christian civic humanism. These five writers have been chosen both for their importance in the English literary canon and for their respective roles in early modern culture: “Spenser: Persons Serving Gloriana”; “Shakespeare's Henriad: Calling the Heir Apparent”; “'Ego Videbo': Donne and the Vocational Self”; “Jonson and the Truth of Envy”; “Milton: Self-Defense and the Drama of Blame.” The study ends with a brief postscript on the Bacon family in whom the combined forces of Protestant vocation and Christian civic humanism were uniquely expressed.
TERRY G. SHERWOOD is professor emeritus and adjunct professor of English at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.