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The Song of Songs in late Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline poetry

Elder, Hilary Elizabeth (2009) The Song of Songs in late Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline poetry. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is about reading. Working on the understanding that all texts read other texts, it aims to uncover something of how English poets from 1590-1650 read the Song of Songs, by analyzing when and how they use it in their poetry. By looking at poetic readings, rather than theological ones, it also explores the connections and distinctions between reading literature and reading Scripture. As both Scripture and lyric love poetry, the Song of Songs has participated in theological and literary discourse over a long period. The Introduction gives background on both kinds of reading, and how they have been applied to the Song of Songs. It also sets out the structure of the thesis. Chapter 2 surveys theological writing about the Song of Songs produced during the period. The material includes sermons, commentaries, household advice books, hymns and translations, including poetic translations. There is a stable core of interpretation, which reads the Song as primarily about the relationship between Christ and the Church, or the individual soul, or both. Within this stable core, however, there is a wide variety of interpretations. Chapters 3-5 are themed, and look at how poets handle the three topics of the feminine voice, beauty and desire when they read the Song of Songs. The first poet considered in each chapter is Aemilia Lanyer, who provides a plumb-line for the exposition. As a poet seeking elite patronage, Lanyer is typical of her age in many important respects; but she also challenges expectations about poets of the period. The other poets considered are Shakespeare, Southwell, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, Spenser, Donne and Crashaw. The Conclusion considers what light these poetic readings shed on the relationship between Scripture and literature.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:26

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