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The Fabulous Dark Cloister

Romance in England after the Reformation

Tiffany Jo Werth

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Romances were among the most popular books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries among both Protestant and Catholic readers. Modeled after Catholic narratives, particularly the lives of saints, these works emphasized the supernatural and the marvelous, themes commonly associated with Catholicism. In this book, Tiffany Jo Werth investigates how post-Reformation English authors sought to discipline romance, appropriating its popularity while distilling its alleged Catholic taint.

Charged with bewitching readers, especially women, into lust and heresy, romances sold briskly even as preachers…

Romances were among the most popular books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries among both Protestant and Catholic readers. Modeled after Catholic narratives, particularly the lives of saints, these works emphasized the supernatural and the marvelous, themes commonly associated with Catholicism. In this book, Tiffany Jo Werth investigates how post-Reformation English authors sought to discipline romance, appropriating its popularity while distilling its alleged Catholic taint.

Charged with bewitching readers, especially women, into lust and heresy, romances sold briskly even as preachers and educators denounced them as papist. Protestant reformers, as part of their broader indictment of Catholicism, sought to redirect certain elements of the Christian tradition, including this notorious literary genre. Werth argues that through the writing and circulation of romances, Protestants repurposed their supernatural and otherworldly motifs in order to "fashion," as Edmund Spenser wrote, godly "vertuous" readers.

Through careful examinations of the period’s most renowned romances—Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembrokes Arcadia, Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, William Shakespeare’s Pericles, and Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania—Werth illustrates how post-Reformation writers struggled to transform the literary genre. As a result, the romance, long regarded as an archetypal form closely allied with generalized Christian motifs, emerged as a central tenet of the religious controversies that divided Renaissance England.

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The Fabulous Dark Cloister

Tiffany Jo Werth

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Reviews

Reviews

A fresh appraisal of the romance in post-Reformation England, presenting this genre as the site of contested Protestant and Catholic influences and reading practices... Werth enriches scholarship on the religious dimensions of early-modern culture and on romance literature particularly.

The payoff in this smart and convincing study is a rich sense of how deeply these four authors wrestled with their genre’s Catholic past. The ‘‘ongoing, incomplete reformation’’ that this study finds in literary and religious culture will influence future scholarship on these and other literary romances.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
248
ISBN
9781421404400
Illustration Description
8 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I: Fabulous Texts
1. Fabulous Romance and Abortive Reform in Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser
2. Saint or Martyr? Reforming the Romance Heroine in the New Arcadia and

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I: Fabulous Texts
1. Fabulous Romance and Abortive Reform in Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser
2. Saint or Martyr? Reforming the Romance Heroine in the New Arcadia and Pericles
Part II: Superstitious Readers
3. Glozing Phantastes in The Faerie Queene
4. "Soundly washed" or Interpretively Redeemed? Labor and Reading in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania
Coda: Exceptional Romance
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Tiffany J. Werth
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Tiffany J. Werth

Tiffany Jo Werth is an assistant professor of English at Simon Fraser University.