The epigram in England, 1590–1640

Author: James Doelman

While among the most common of Renaissance genres, the epigram has been largely neglected by scholars and critics: James Doelman's The Epigram in England: 1590-1640 is the first major study on the Renaissance English epigram since 1947. It combines awareness of the genre's history and conventions with an historicist consideration of social, political and religious contexts. Tracing the oral, manuscript and print circulation of individual epigrams, the book demonstrates their central place in the period's poetic culture.

The epigram was known for brevity, sharpness, and an urbane tone, but its subject matter ranged widely; thus, this book gives close attention to such sub-genres as the political epigram, the religious epigram and the mock epitaph. In its survey the book also considers questions of libel, censorship and patronage associated with the genre.

While due attention is paid to such canonical figures as Ben Jonson and Sir John Harington, who used this humble (and sometimes scandalous) genre in poetically and socially ambitious ways, the study also draws on a wide range of neglected epigrammatists such as Thomas Bastard, Thomas Freeman and "Henry Parrot". More subject than author-oriented, epigrams often floated free, and this study gives full attention to the wealth of anonymous epigrams from the period. As epigram culture was not limited by language, the book also draws heavily upon Neo-Latin epigrams.

In its breadth The Epigram in England serves as a foundational introduction to the genre for students, and through its detailed case studies it offers rich analysis for advanced scholars.

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