Defending Literature in Early Modern England: Renaissance Literary Theory in Social Context

By Robert Matz | Go to book overview

2
Recreating reading: Elyot's Boke Named the
Governour

The honorable and onerous order of knighthood

Thomas Elyot's life and writings provide an early and notable example of the cultural transitions that I have outlined. Though Elyot's major work, the Boke Named the Governour, has often suggested to readers the Erasmian commitment of a newly reformed elite to discipline and learning, it also preserves, sometimes through striking forms of displacement or condensation, the unreformed pleasures of the old chivalric and courtly nobility. Elyot's Horatian mediation between conflicting imperatives of profit and pleasure, work and play, suggests one reason for the Governour's great success. Indeed, the book was so successful that, according to Elyot's nineteenth-century biographer, Henry H. S. Croft, its “popularity eclipsed that of any other book of the same period, not excepting even the Utopia.1 Yet if Elyot's success as a writer lay in his ability to exploit the ambivalences created by a moment of cultural change, both his relatively failed political career and his own sense of his failure as a writer also suggest how the uncertainties upon which Elyot capitalized were never entirely his to control. Thus if Elyot is an exemplary figure for his early promotion in England of humanism generally and of the humanist idea of profit and pleasure in particular, he is also exemplary of a pattern of sensational biographical or authorial triumphs combined with equally sensational failures. We will see this pattern repeated with Sidney and Spenser, and for some of the same reasons: all three writers can never fully manage the social and cultural contradictions that motivated their lives and writing, and made both so resonant to their contemporaries.

These contemporaries for Elyot include, most importantly, the two opposed and related groups for which he wrote: merchant and gentry classes whose new wealth and political significance portended greatness to come, and a nobility whose former greatness was becoming increasingly tied to and threatened by the success of these “new men. ” He could write for these two groups because he lived their opposition. Elyot's father Richard was at the center of the economic and administrative transformations of the early sixteenth century. The son of “undistinguished” ancestors, Richard Elyot 25

-25-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Defending Literature in Early Modern England: Renaissance Literary Theory in Social Context
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction: “aut Prodesse … Aut Delectare” 1
  • 2 - Recreating Reading: Elyot's Boke Named the Governour 25
  • 3 - Heroic Diversions: Sidney's Defence of Poetry 56
  • 4 - A “gentle Discipline”: Spenser's Faerie Queene 88
  • 5 - Epilogue: from Text to Work? 128
  • Notes 137
  • Bibliography 172
  • Index 182
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 188

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.