The Poetics of English Nationhood, 1590-1612

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Cambridge University Press, Oct 28, 1996 - Literary Criticism - 239 pages
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The Poetics of English Nationhood is a study of the formation of English national identity during the early modern period. Claire McEachern argues for the role of Reformation religious culture in the shaping of a Tudor-Stuart nation, and examines its presence in the writings of Spenser, Shakespeare, and Drayton. She shows how in their work the concept of nationality is always fluid; it crucially depends on a sense of intimacy that seeps across and above hierarchies and boundaries. McEachern shows how different kinds of language - literary, exegetical, parliamentary - personify power, thereby sealing the intimacy which binds the nation as an imagined community. The representation of faith, motherland, and crown in Tudor-Stuart texts, she argues, continually personified English political institutions, promoting both social order and collective unity. By focusing on the rhetorical forms of cultural unity in the Reformation era, McEachern traces a profound shift from a monarchically defined Englishness to a system based within the cultural institution of the common law.

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