Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII: Literary Culture and the Arts of Deceit

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This revisionary study of the origins of courtly poetry reveals the culture of spectatorship and voyeurism that shaped early Tudor English literary life. Through research into the reception of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, it demonstrates how Pandarus became the model of the early modern courtier. His blend of counsel, secrecy and eroticism informed the behaviour of poets, lovers, diplomats and even Henry VIII himself. In close readings of the poetry of Hawes and Skelton, the drama of the court, the letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, the writings of Thomas Wyatt, and manuscript anthologies and early printed books, Seth Lerer illuminates a 'Pandaric' world of displayed bodies, surreptitious letters and transgressive performances. In the process, he redraws the boundaries between the medieval and the Renaissance and illustrates the centrality of the verse epistle to the construction of subjectivity.