Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

Sixteenth-Century Identities

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

Sixteenth-Century Identities

Article excerpt

A. J. Piesse (ed.), Sixteenth-Century Identities, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000, pp vii + 190, hb. £40, ISBN: 0719053832

The dominant images associated with this volume of seven essays on early modern identity are those of orientation and exploration. Appropriately, three of the articles reconnoitre the fashioning of identity through contemporary spatial and geographical representations, while the others expatiate on individual or collective worlds of interiority. The light editorial guidance of A. J. Piesse allows for resonances and connections to accompany the reader's journey through the book, signposting the importance of allowing individual voices in the past to be heard through the agency of coworking historians and literary scholars in the present.

Most of the essays concentrate on the explication of a particular text or series of texts through a variety of reading styles. There is a stimulating directional survey by Douglas Gray which presents a longer view of individualisation than that hitherto posited in debates about Burckhardtian concepts. Subsequent essays point up the complexity of tracing the 'selving' process in the works of sixteenth- and early seventeenth- century writers. The case-study by Mike Pincombe on the poet and statesman Thomas Sackville's attempt to find an individual authorial voice, and Helen Wilcox's counterpointing of Martha Moulsworth's Memorandum and John Donne's Devotions examine the aspirations of individuals in expressing selfhood, and reflect the opportunities offered and constraints posed by the different modes of autobiography. The question of collective identity is broached in Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin's study of attitudes in print towards the manipulation of sacred space during the Reformation, and in Ciaran Brady's dissection of the mentality of the New English in late Tudor Ireland, as evidenced in William Herbert's Croftus. …

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