‘Transprosing and Transversing’
Religion, revolution, and the end of history in Dryden’s late works
in Aesthetics of contingency
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Notwithstanding its reputation as a secular age, the Restoration was notable for its religious converts, not least its most famous pair of writers, Lord Rochester and the Stuart laureate John Dryden. This chapter explores the development of Dryden’s art in the wake of his conversion to Rome in 1685 and the subsequent failure of Stuart rule. Its theme is ‘transprosing and transversing’, as Dryden and his contemporaries referred to the transformation of one kind of text into another. Dryden’s late work of fable and translation represents an extensive body of transversive writing – one that resonates strongly with his experience as a convert, of fashioning a new spiritual and political identity on top of a prior script that cannot be wholly erased. And indeed, in the palimpsestic play of Dryden’s late aesthetic, this chapter also traces a shift in the poet’s conception of English history, from the providential typologies of Astraea Redux (1660) and Absalom and Achitophel (1681) to the self-consciously contingent allegories of The Hind and the Panther (1687), Don Sebastian (1689), and Fables (1700).

Aesthetics of contingency

Writing, politics, and culture in England, 1639– 89

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