In early modern England, epitomes-texts promising to pare down, abridge, or sum up the essence of their authoritative sources-provided readers with key historical knowledge without the bulk, expense, or time commitment demanded by greater volumes. Epic poets in turn addressed the habits of reading and thinking that, for better and for worse, were popularized by the publication of predigested works. Analyzing popular texts such as chronicle summaries, abridgements of sacred epic, and abstracts of civil war debate, Chloe Wheatley charts the efflorescence of a lively early modern epitome culture, and demonstrates its impact upon Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Abraham Cowley's Davideis, and John Milton's Paradise Lost. Clearly and elegantly written, this new study presents fresh insight into how poets adapted an important epic convention-the representation of the hero's confrontation with summaries of past and future-to reflect contemporary trends in early modern history writing.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Early modern epitome culture: habits of study, printed objects, history's quintessence; Stow's civil summaries; Abridging the infinite chronicle: Spenser and the role of the poet historical; Du Bartas in epitome; Cowley, Milton, and the histories of epic; Bibliography; Index.
Chloe Wheatley is an Associate Professor at Trinity College, Hartford, USA.
'Chloe Wheatley reconstructs and investigates the impact of the early modern boom for epitomes and abridgements on epic poems by Spenser, Cowley, and Milton. Her judicious analysis of how these writers negotiated historiographic challenges facing both them and their heroes enables us to see the works in an entirely new light.' Paulina Kewes, Jesus College, University of Oxford, UK '... Wheatley has broken new ground in demonstrating that the printed epitome in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English book and literary culture is indeed a rich field, and her study is likely to prove a springboard to significant new scholarship.' Sixteenth Century Journal 'Wheatley presents an interesting overview of the epitome, a written form that in the early modern period was clearly widely practiced by writers and avidly consumed by readers, as well as insights into the works of Stow, Spenser, Cowley, and Milton.' Appositions