Epistolary Community in Print, 1580–1664: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Epistolary Community in Print, 1580–1664

1st Edition

By Diana G. Barnes


262 pages

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Hardback: 9781409445357
pub: 2013-01-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315580135
pub: 2016-05-13
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Epistolary Community in Print contends that the printed letter is an inherently sociable genre ideally suited to the theorisation of community in early modern England. In manual, prose or poetic form, printed letter collections make private matters public, and in so doing reveal, first how tenuous is the divide between these two realms in the early modern period and, second, how each collection helps to constitute particular communities of readers. Consequently, as Epistolary Community details, epistolary visions of community were gendered. This book provides a genealogy of epistolary discourse beginning with an introductory discussion of Gabriel Harvey and Edmund Spenser’s Wise and Wittie Letters (1580), and opening into chapters on six printed letter collections generated at times of political change. Among the authors whose letters are examined are Angel Day, Michael Drayton, Jacques du Bosque and Margaret Cavendish. Epistolary Community identifies broad patterns that were taking shape, and constantly morphing, in English printed letters from 1580 to 1664, and then considers how the six examples of printed letters selected for discussion manipulate this generic tradition to articulate ideas of community under specific historical and political circumstances. This study makes a substantial contribution to the rapidly growing field of early modern letters, and demonstrates how the field impacts our understanding of political discourses in circulation between 1580 and 1664, early modern women’s writing, print culture and rhetoric.


'In this engaging and well researched book, Diana Barnes analyzes a set of documents that reflect on, as well as exemplify, the genre of the ’familiar letter.’ Exploring early modern English epistolarity as a rich blending of theory and practice, she illuminates the myriad ways in which printed letters became discursive sites for significant cultural innovation. In particular, she illuminates how English letter writing practices impacted politically consequential debates about gender, class status, confessional identity, sovereignty, friendship, love, and the shifting boundaries between openness and secrecy in an emergent-and fractured-national community.' Margaret W. Ferguson, University of California, Davis 'Epistolary Community in Print, 1580-1664 is an original and welcome addition to the burgeoning scholarship on early modern letters, uncovering some lesser-known works and throwing new light onto the familiar. By revealing the gender politics embedded in, and challenged by, the genre of the epistle, Diana Barnes makes a real contribution to our understanding of early modern letters.' Alan Stewart, Columbia University, USA and the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, UK 'Barnes, while never neglecting an opportunity to advance her thesis, also seeks to cover a great deal of ground in relation to historical events and to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century ideas about empathy, sovereignty and gender�, civility, friendship, religion, class, genre and decorum, and materiality… a valuable contribution to debates about the history of the familiar letter in England and its role in the creation of the republic of letters�.' Times Literary Supplement ’Epistolary Community in Print, 1580-1664 is an excellent study for students and academics interested in the early modern letter-writing tradition. Barnes’s focus on feminine epistolary discourse gives her book welcome depth. Her book is also an exciting read. Each subsequent chapter follows a l

About the Author

Diana G. Barnes is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, Australia.

About the Series

Material Readings in Early Modern Culture

Material Readings in Early Modern Culture

This series provides a forum for studies that consider the material forms of texts as part of an investigation into early modern English culture. The editors invite proposals of a multi- or interdisciplinary nature, and particularly welcome proposals that combine archival research with an attention to the theoretical models that might illuminate the reading, writing, and making of texts, as well as projects that take innovative approaches to the study of material texts, both in terms the kinds of primary materials under investigation, and in terms of methodologies. What are the questions that have yet to be asked about writing in its various possible embodied forms? Are there varieties of materiality that are critically neglected? How does form mediate and negotiate content? In what ways do the physical features of texts inform how they are read, interpreted and situated? Consideration will be given to both monographs and collections of essays. The range of topics covered in this series includes, but is not limited to:

-History of the book, publishing, the book trade, printing, typography (layout, type, typeface, blank/white space, paratextual apparatus)

-Technologies of the written word: ink, paper, watermarks, pens, presses

-Surprising or neglected material forms of writing

-Print culture


-Manuscript studies

-Social space, context, location of writing

-Social signs, cues, codes imbued within the material forms of texts

-Ownership and the social practices of reading: marginalia, libraries, environments of reading and reception

-Codicology, palaeography and critical bibliography

-Production, transmission, distribution and circulation

-Archiving and the archaeology of knowledge

-Orality and oral culture

-The material text as object or thing

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