When we engage with the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, we encounter a culture radically unfamiliar to us at the start of the twenty-first century. The past is a foreign country, and so too are many of its texts. This readable and provocative book seeks to enhance our understanding of early modern literature by recovering the contexts in which it was originally produced and consumed.
Taking us back to the courts, theatres and marketplaces of early modern England, Jason Scott-Warren reveals the varied ways in which literary texts dovetailed with everyday experience, unlocking the distinctive social practices, economic structures and modes of behaviour that gave them meaning. He shows how the periods most beguiling writings were conditioned by long-forgotten notions of knowledge, nationhood, sexuality and personal identity. Bringing an anthropologists eye to his materials, he offers richly detailed new readings of works from within and beyond the canon, covering a span that stretches from Erasmus and More to Milton and Behn.
Resisting any notion of the period as merely transitional a staging post on the road leading from the medieval to the modern world Scott-Warren reveals the distinctiveness of its literary culture, and equips the reader for fresh encounters with its extraordinary textual legacy. Any undergraduate student of the period will find it an essential guide, while scholars will find its fresh approach invigorating.