The Literary Culture of the Reformation

The Literary Culture of the Reformation : Grammar and Grace

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Brian Cummings examines the place of literature in the Reformation, considering both how arguments about biblical meaning and literary interpretation influenced the new theology, and how developments in theology in turn influenced literary practices. Part One focuses on Northern Europe, reconsidering the relationship between Renaissance humanism (especially Erasmus) and religious ideas (especially Luther). Parts Two and Three examine Tudor and early Stuart England. Part Two describes the rise of vernacular theology and protestant culture in relation to fundamental changes in the understanding of the English language. Part Three studies English religious poetry (including Donne, Herbert, and in an Epilogue, Milton) in the wake of these changes. Bringing together genres and styles of writing which are normally kept apart (poems, sermons, treatises, commentaries), Cummings offers a major re-evaluation of the literary production of this intensely verbal and controversial period.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 490 pages
  • 138 x 214 x 28mm | 598.74g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0199226334
  • 9780199226337
  • 1,248,649

Review quote

...this is a marvellous book, written with style and humour, explaining complex issues with enviable clarity. * Sixteenth Century Journal * This is a book of many virtues: a fully fledged interdisciplinary study of religion and literature. it will be a model for future studies, especially in its strong consideration of reading and marginalia in religious and literary context. * Sixteenth Century Journal * Cummings provides wonderful examples of the protean qualities of language and its uses in times of religious strife and uncertainty. * Renaissance Quarterly * A groundbreaking and immensely important book. Cummings links an impressive knowledge of sixteenth-century theology and humanist culture to a penetrating analysis of linguistic issues and problems to produce literary criticism of the highest order. * Andrew Hadfield, Times Literary Supplement * I cannot recall when I last read a work of literary scholarship which I finished with such strong feelings of intellectual exhilaration and refreshment. * David Womersley, The Review of English Studies * Cummings's argument is strikingly innovative because of his concentration on the grammatical nitty-gritty of differing theological concepts. * Church Times * ... a powerful and learned study, which splendidly succeeds in describing the relationship between the alliterated nouns of the title. * Church Times * [Cummings] writes with a clarity and wit all too rare in scholarly works. But this is not just a masterly survey of a fascinating subject; it demonstrates that literary, linguistic and philosophical issues will always be intertwined, and that we improverish ourselves by hiving them off into different disciplines. * Gabriel Josipovici, Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement * The publication of Brian Cummings's book is an event of some importance for both historians and literary critics ... Deeply learned and displaying an enviable command of the several fields of enquiry upon which it impinges, The Literary Culture of the Reformation wears the postmodern theory which suffuses it very lightly on its sleeve ... casts compelling new light on some of the most challenging and doctrinally ambiguous poems in the English
Language * Cultural and Social History * ... the real strength of this book is the way it combines careful readings of complex Reformation texts with a narrative of cultural change that embraces the sixteenth century. Cummings's work on Erasmus and Luther is insightful, detailed and a pleasure to read. * Journal of Ecclesiastical History * ... fascinating work ... covers an impressive range of material ... The first section is an impressive piece of scholarship reminding one of what can be achieved by historically informed and theoretically sophisticated literary criticism ... Cummings's study is one of a very rare breed - a work of literary criticism that one is not embarrassed to recommend to one's historical colleagues. * Journal of Ecclesiastical History * This is one of the most important books on the Reformation to have been published in our time. * Patrick Collinson, The English Historical Review * One of the notable strengths of Cummings' book is its ability to follow Erasmus's lead in allowing for a certain amount of ambiguity in interpretation. * Reformation * The argument is bold and, as it is formulated here, a novel one. Moreover, Cummings has a talent for the striking and memorable formulation * Renaissance Studies * Review from previous edition I cannot think of a book more keenly aware of the linguistic complexities of early modern texts and of their political implications. * Renaissance Studies *
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Table of contents

Note to the Reader ; Abbreviations ; Prologue: The Reformation and Literary Culture ; I. HUMANISM AND THEOLOGY IN NORTHERN EUROPE 1512-1527 ; The Reformation of the Reader ; New Grammar and New Theology ; Erasmus contra Luther ; II. THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND THE ENGLISH REFORMATIONS 1521-1603 ; Vernacular Theology ; Protestant Culture ; III. LITERATURE AND THE ENGLISH REFORMATIONS 1580-1640 ; Calvinist and Anti-Calvinist ; Recusant Poetry ; God's Grammar ; Epilogue: Revolutionary English ; Primary Sources ; Secondary Sources ; Index
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