The formation of the English literary canon in the seventeenth century (1640-1694)

Mobley, Gail Elaine (2017). The formation of the English literary canon in the seventeenth century (1640-1694). University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis investigates the conception and development of an English literary canon across the mid- to-late-seventeenth century, examining ideas about literary production, preservation, genre development, literary criticism, notions of fame and the role of the author in a period before the term 'canon' was applied to secular writing. Current scholarship into literary canons often concentrates on the eighteenth century and later. My study argues that many of the ideas, institutions, aesthetic features, and commercial factors that contribute to English literature canon-formation predate the eighteenth century, even if the notion of an English literary canon is not made explicit until this time. I approach this topic through a series of five case studies. Four concentrate on specific categories of writing that I argue influence the development of a literary canon from the mid-seventeenth century onward: printed collections, literary criticism, life-writing and commendatory poetry. The fifth chapter focuses on an individual author, Abraham Cowley, and how he endeavours to position himself into the pantheon of English worthies. I am not arguing that the seventeenth century is where canon-formation begins, but aim to demonstrate that ideas about canonicity existed during the seventeenth-century and have impacted the shape and content of the English literary canon.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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