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Etymology and the Invention of English in Early Modern Literature

$31.99 (C)

  • Date Published: December 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107614550

$ 31.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • How did authors such as Jonson, Spenser, Donne and Milton think about the past lives of the words they used? Hannah Crawforth shows how early modern writers were acutely attuned to the religious and political implications of the etymology of English words. She argues that these lexically astute writers actively engaged with the lexicographers, Anglo-Saxonists and etymologists who were carrying out a national project to recover, or invent, the origins of English, at a time when the question of a national vernacular was inseparable from that of national identity. English words are deployed to particular effect – as a polemical weapon, allegorical device, coded form of communication, type of historical allusion or political tool. Drawing together early modern literature and linguistics, Crawforth argues that the history of English as it was studied in the period radically underpins the writing of its greatest poets.

    • Connects the literature of early modern England to the study of linguistics in the period for the first time, showing how politically important this was
    • Corrects the current overemphasis on Renaissance classicism in England, telling the story of early Anglo-Saxon studies and their impact on literature
    • Provides major re-readings of several key figures including Spenser, Jonson, Donne and Milton, helping readers approach these familiar poets afresh
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "… what [Crawforth] delivers most of all is an intriguing, compelling, wonderfully considered account of the linguistic worlds of early modern writers, with their special awareness of the soft and hard landings words have in the world."
    Raphael Lyne, The Cambridge Quarterly

    '… in addition to opening several fruitful avenues for future scholarly work, Crawforth has done readers one other service. By focusing on authors’ systematic use of etymology, she shows us that Renaissance poets imagined the study of word origins, a philological and humanistic study, as, more than anything, a practical approach to the world.' Ryan Netzley, Milton Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107614550
    • length: 232 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: etymology in early modern literature
    1. Etymology and estrangement in the poems of Edmund Spenser
    2. Etymology and textual time in the masques of Ben Jonson
    3. Etymology and place in Donne's sermons
    4. Etymology and the ends of idealism in Milton's prose
    Conclusion: a world in a word

  • Author

    Hannah Crawforth, King's College London
    Hannah Crawforth is a lecturer in Early Modern Literature at King's College London, where she is also one of the founding members of the London Shakespeare Centre. She has published articles in a range of journals and edited collections, and is textual editor for the Norton Shakespeare's new edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen.

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