New Perspectives on Tudor Cultures.
The title of this collection of conference essays is a bit of a misnomer because the scholarship is confined almost exclusively to literary criticism, with little attention given to culture in a sociological or historical sense. In fact, some of the essays would have benefited from utilizing a more interdisciplinary approach inasmuch as textual readings tend to be very much from a particular perspective and are often disconnected from the lived experiences in which the works were produced. Overall, these scholars avoid such detachment and provide some highly suggestive interpretations of both well-known and more obscure works of the Tudor period.
If there is a running theme in the thirteen essays included here, it is to challenge C. S. Lewis's famous pronouncement of the sixteenth century as a "drab age," or literary wasteland, at least until the last quarter (see Kinga Foldvary's contribution in particular); and yet, Tudor literary culture in this volume still tends to begin as a trickle within Henry VIII's coterie of humanists before cascading into a flood by the late Elizabethan period. Although some attention to the first Tudor would have been welcome, the authors do spotlight certain other little-known facets of the age. For example, Kate Roddy, in upholding the conclusions of revisionist historians who argue that Mary Tudor's reign was far from a failure, demonstrates that contemporary writers, such as Hogarde, Forrest, Proctor, and Udall, effectively constructed a powerful image of the queen as a providential mother to her people, possessed of love and discipline, both essential traits of good rule. In another essay, Gabriella Reuss makes a convincing argument for the author of The Lamentable Tragedy of Locrine, an anachronistic tragedy about ancient Huns trying to conquer England, purposely employing pseudohistory on the stage as propaganda during the brief time when the Spanish Armada threatened. These studies take us beneath the rather subjective surface of texts as cultural mirrors and identifiers and help delimit their potential historical impacts. Sue Simpson does much the same when, through some clever detective work, she depicts the rise and decline of the Accession Day tournament as a meaningful form of royal entertainment.
Though it is difficult to capture the full breadth of scholarship in these very diverse essays, they all offer insightful analyses into a variety of works, from Surrey and Shakespeare to the somewhat lesser-known Thomas Sackville and Sir Edward Dyer. One clear advantage is that because most of the essays are by academics working in non-English-speaking countries, they tend to integrate other important, yet less-familiar, scholarship, like that of Hungarian writer Lajos Bodrogi, who did not write in English. This awareness is exhibited in Zsolt Almasi's excellent introduction where, drawing from the work of Gerard Genette and using Thomas More's Utopia as a case study, he offers a fascinating look at how editorial choices about which paratextual elements to include in new editions of literary works can contribute significantly to the overall "production of meaning." Therefore the reader should enjoy the insightful melange of Tudor literary interpretation this collection provides, as it repeatedly suggests new possibilities for opening up the age.
Florida Atlantic University
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2014|
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