Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature

Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature

4 (2 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

List price: US$45.00

Currently unavailable

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


Thanks to cony-catching pamphlets and other rogue literature, the vagrant poor of Renaissance England have acquired a patina of comic good humor and a reputation as sturdy rogues who were adept at living on the fringes of society. Unearthing the sources as well as the effects of this reputation, Linda Woodbridge shows that the prevailing image of the vagrant poor was essentially a literary fabrication pressed into the service of specific social and political agendas. Looking at texts such as Thomas Harman's influential "Caveat for Common Cursetors", "Vulgarly Called Vagabonds", Till Eulenspiegel's "A Man Called Howlglas", and Walter Smith's "Twelve Merry Jests of the Widow Edith", Woodbridge identifies a well-established literary tradition of treating vagrants as comic figures.This literary practice, she maintains, has informed both the legal and the historical treatment of vagrancy, erasing pity and compassion for the homeless by depicting them as robust, resourceful, conniving tricksters. Her study culminates in a close look at one literary work that does invoke compassion for the homeless, placeless poor: Shakespeare's "King Lear". Woodbridge presents the vagrant as a Renaissance 'other', constructed by the powerful to promote causes as diverse as humanism, bureaucratic centralization, and the Reformation. She suggests that literary images of the vagrant poor influenced the "Poor Laws in England", laws that carefully distinguished between the deserving, domiciled poor, who were to benefit from charity, and the undeserving, vagrant poor, who were to be treated with scorn and suspicion as loafers feigning poverty and affliction.Woodbridge also examines political and philosophical tracts that incorporated the romanticized language of rogue literature and looks at social changes, such as a new emphasis on domestic space and privacy, that left the 'houseless' even further out in the cold. Tracing the conversion of harmless fiction into powerful fact, "Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature" offers a sobering commentary on a view of the homeless that has become our more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 150 x 230 x 34mm | 680.39g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252026330
  • 9780252026331

Review quote

"Well written, with notes and appendixes summarizing historical conclusions and the jest-book tradition. Must reading for all students of English Renaissance culture and literature, the volume will also interest anyone with concerns about present-day poverty and social institutions." -- Choice "It is the range of materials assembled here that makes [Woodbridge's] case at once startling and convincing. The study, never dispassionate, is beautifully and forcefully written: fresh observations appear on every page." -- Arthur F. Kinney, Renaissance Quarterly "A lively blend of material history, literary interpretation, and social conscience. This volume provides a masterful survey of the vast historical literature on the subjects of early modern vagrancy, poverty, disease, famine, criminality, justice, legislation, and charity. It brings these subjects together with Renaissance jest-book literature, achieving a finely nuanced understanding of the curious and uneasy tone with which Renaissance society approached its social ills--and finding a vigorous new way of reading King Lear." -- Lena Orlin, editor of Material London, ca. 1600 "Linda Woodbridge's is a voice of powerful and often moving compassion. She brings together here a profound understanding of the social conditions of the poor, wide reading in texts throughout the sixteenth century, and an acute capacity to illuminate even the most familiar literary texts. Her work on King Lear -- an essential text throughout her study -- is particularly noteworthy. This book will move as well as enlighten its readers." -- William C. Carroll, author of Fat King, Lean Beggar: Representations of Poverty in the Age of Shakespeareshow more

Rating details

2 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 50% (1)
4 0% (0)
3 50% (1)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X