The English Renaissance: Identity and Representation in Elizabethan England
This book reassesses Renaissance English literature and its place in Elizabethan society. It examines, in particular, the role of Italianate literary imitation in addressing the ethical and political issues of the sixteenth century. In doing so, it reveals the significance of the Calvinist discourse of English Protestantism as a stimulus to literary creation. It demonstrates how the clash between the values of the Continental system from which England was separating and the assumptions of the Elizabethan religious settlement of 1559 prompted writers to use creative imitation as a means of exploring the problematical relationship between the two.
At the heart of this activity was a need for English men and women to formulate what their new identity should be, both at the individual and national levels. A radically new picture emerges from this investigation both of the literature of the English Renaissance, and also of the English Reformation itself. The author shows how imitation of Italianate literary culture had a much greater influence on the formation of modern British identity than has been hitherto supposed. He demonstrates that it also invested Renaissance English literature with many of its most characteristic attributes. Above all, the English Renaissance and Reformation are shown to be far more closely linked than previous scholars have recognized.