Challenging a long-standing trend that sees the Renaissance as the end of communal identity and constitutive group affiliation, author Joshua Phillips explores the perseverance of such affiliation throughout Tudor culture. Focusing on prose fiction from Malory's Morte Darthur through the works of Sir Philip Sidney and Thomas Nashe, this study explores the concept of collective agency and the extensive impact it had on English Renaissance culture. In contrast to studies devoted to the myth of early modern individuation, English Fictions of Communal Identity, 1485-1603 pays special attention to primary communities-monastic orders, printing house concerns, literary circles, and neighborhoods-that continued to generate a collective sense of identity. Ultimately, Phillips offers a new way of theorizing the relation between collaboration and identity. In terms of literary history, this study elucidates a significant aspect of novelistic discourse, even as it accounts for the institutional disregard of often brilliant works of early modern fiction.
Joshua Phillips is Associate Professor of English at the University of Memphis, USA.
'... subtle, well written, and informed by a wide variety of scholarship. At a time when we have begun to investigate the possibility that even the great William Shakespeare had coauthors, English Fictions of Communal Identity is a useful reminder that no man - certainly no author - is an island.' Sixteenth Century Journal '... Phillips succeeds in advancing a fresh and stimulating appraisal of the fictional works and their interaction with a sixteenth-century readership. Asserting the capacity for society to have produced texts and meanings which conveyed a sense of collective identity, Phillips uses his evidence to reveal (borrowing Benedict Anderson's concept) 'imagined communities' whose members were alert to collective bonds. ... Phillips skilfully interweaves these theoretical insights with the practical realities of sixteenth-century communal life, including linkages based on clientage, patronage, kinship and marriage, legal institutions, as well as more nebulous links derived from local custom, neighbourly proximity, and friendship.' Parergon