Reading Literature Historically: Drama and Poetry from Chaucer to the Reformation

Pioneer of early-modern literary historicism reads Medieval and early Tudor drama and poetry historically. How far should we try to read medieval and early modern texts historically? Does the attempt to uncover how such texts might have been received by their original readers and audiences uncover new, hitherto unexpected contemporary resonances in them? Or does it flatten works of art into mere 'secondary sources' for historical analysis? This book makes the case for the study of literature in context. It demonstrates the value of historical and cultural analysis alongside traditional literary scholarship for enriching our understanding of plays and poems from the medieval and early Tudor past and of the cultures which produced and received them. It equally accepts the risks involved in that kind of study. It makes the case for reading medieval and early Tudor literature historically. It includes case studies of the interaction between literature and politics, from Chaucer to the reign of Henry VIII. It offers detailed analysis of key medieval and Renaissance texts, Chaucer's Miller's Tale, Sir Gawain and Green Knight, Sir David Lyndsay's A Satire of the Three Estates. It turns a spotlight on hitherto neglected texts that reveal the challenges, rewards and potential pitfalls of reading literature historically.