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Ever in motion

This volume questions and qualifies commonly accepted assumptions about the early modern English sonnet: that it was a strictly codified form, most often organised in sequences, which emerged only at the very end of the sixteenth century and declined as fast as it had bloomed at the turn of the century – and that minor poets merely participated in the sonnet fashion by replicating established conventions. Drawing from book history, using the tools of close reading and textual criticism, it aims to offer a more nuanced history of the form in early modern England – and especially of the so-called ‘sonnet craze’. It does so by exploring the works of such major poets as Shakespeare, Sidney and Spenser but also of lesser-studied sonneteers such as Barnabe Barnes and Gabriel Harvey. It discusses how sonnets were written, published, received and repurposed in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, taking into account interactions with the French and Italian literary traditions. The collection also discusses current editorial practices and provides the first modern edition of an early seventeenth-century Elizabethan miscellany which claims the Earl of Essex, Spenser and ‘S.P.S.’ (presumably Sir Philp Sidney) as authors.

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Laetitia Sansonetti
Rémi Vuillemin
, and
Enrica Zanin

The early modern English sonnet has rarely been assessed as a category, and recent works have rather chosen the wider category of lyric – one whose historicity poses a number of difficulties. Despite the expansion of the canon in the last decades, and the related development of stimulating critical approaches based on gender, nationhood, race or religious studies, our vision of the sonnet is still affected by the ‘parody theory’, which oversimplifies the perspective of the sonneteers, discourages research on their works and does not recognise that parodies can also testify to the success of their targets. The loose codification of the sonnet and the variety of the contexts in which sonnets appear need to be taken into account and to be placed in the context of Petrarchan poetics in other countries, in particular France and Italy. The present volume proposes to do so using the input of book history and the tools of a historicised formalism, focusing in particular (but not only) on the key period of the 1590s.

in The early modern English sonnet