The Poem, the Garden, and the World: Poetry and Performativity in Elizabethan England (Rethinking the Early Modern) (Hardcover)
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How an early modern understanding of place and movement are embedded in a performative theory of literature
How is a garden like a poem? Early modern writers frequently compared the two, and as Jim Ellis shows, the metaphor gained strength with the arrival of a spectacular new art form—the Renaissance pleasure garden—which immersed visitors in a political allegory to be read by their bodies’ movements. The Poem, the Garden, and the World traces the Renaissance-era relationship of place and movement from garden to poetry to a confluence of both. Starting with the Earl of Leicester’s pleasure garden for Queen Elizabeth’s 1575 progress visit, Ellis explores the political function of the entertainment landscape that plunged visitors into a fully realized golden world—a mythical new form to represent the nation. Next, he turns to one of that garden’s visitors: Philip Sidney, who would later contend that literature’s golden worlds work to move us as we move through them, reorienting readers toward a belief in English empire. This idea would later be illustrated by Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen; as with the pleasure garden, both characters and readers are refashioned as they traverse the poem’s dreamlike space. Exploring the artistic creations of three of the era’s major figures, Ellis argues for a performative understanding of literature, in which readers are transformed as they navigate poetic worlds.
About the Author
JIM ELLIS is a professor of English and the director of the Calgary Institute for the Humanities at the University of Calgary. He is the author of Sexuality and Citizenship: Metamorphosis in Elizabethan Erotic Verse and Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations. He is the editor of three volumes on environmental humanities, including Intertwined Histories: Plants in Their Social Contexts.
“An imaginative and exciting mixture of literary criticism and cultural analysis, The Poem, the Garden, and the World shows just how important the advent of the pleasure garden was in shaping the imaginations of so many writers after it became popular in the sixteenth century. Whether thinking about escaping from the pressures of real life or the development of a national form and consciousness, literary style or the advent and spread of the British Empire, the reality and idea of the pleasure garden was central to the development of English Renaissance literature, particularly the work of Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser. Jim Ellis has written an important book that helps us understand the nature of early modern English writing.” —Andrew Hadfield, author of Lying in Early Modern English Culture: From the Oath of Supremacy to the Oath of Allegiance
“In this thoroughly researched, theoretically sophisticated, and well-written book, Jim Ellis shows how important gardens, both real and fictional, were to English Renaissance culture. As he demonstrates, gardens were important to look at, to move through, and to think with. The Poem, the Garden, and the World is an illuminating work of cultural studies that should be widely read and appreciated.” —Stephen Guy-Bray, author of Shakespeare and Queer Representation