The Plague Epic in Early Modern England : Heroic Measures, 1603–1721 book cover
1st Edition

The Plague Epic in Early Modern England
Heroic Measures, 1603–1721

Edited By

Rebecca Totaro

ISBN 9781409441717
Published August 17, 2012 by Routledge
352 Pages

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Book Description

The Plague Epic in Early Modern England: Heroic Measures, 1603-1721 presents together, for the first time, modernized versions of ten of the most poignant of plague poems in the English language - each composed in heroic verse and responding to the urgent need to justify the ways of God in times of social, religious, and political upheaval. Showcasing unusual combinations of passion and restraint, heart-rending lamentation and nation-building fervor, these poems function as literary memorials to the plague-time fallen. In an extended introduction, Rebecca Totaro makes the case that these poems belong to a distinct literary genre that she calls the 'plague epic.' Because the poems are formally and thematically related to Milton's great epics Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, this volume represents a rare discovery of previously unidentified sources of great value for Milton studies and scholarly research into the epic, didactic verse, cultural studies of the seventeenth century, illness as metaphor, and interdisciplinary approaches to illness, natural disaster, trauma, and memory.

Table of Contents

Contents: Part 1 An Introduction to the Plague in Heroic Measures, 1603-1721: Part 2 The Poems: William Muggins, London's Mourning Garment; Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton, News from Graves-end; John Davies, The Triumph of Death; Richard Milton, London's Misery; John Taylor, The Fearful Summer; Abraham Holland, A Description of the Great, Fearful and Prodigious Plague; George Wither, Britain's Remembrance; William Austin, Epiloimia epe or The Anatomy of the Pestilence; Thomas Clark, Meditations in my Confinement; Christopher Pitt, The Plague of Marseilles; Glossary; Index of names; Bibliography; Index.

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Rebecca Totaro is Professor of English at Florida Gulf Coast University, author of Suffering in Paradise: The Bubonic Plague in English Literature from More to Milton, and General Editor of the Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies book series.


'Totaro preserves the idiosyncratic capitalization, contraction, and italicization that was common in the texts of the time. Original printed marginal notes are included as footnotes. This approach offers scholars and students the best of both worlds; Totaro has made these texts more accessible while preserving much of their authenticity.' Renaissance Quarterly ’Totaro shines a valuable light on a body of verse that has been neglected and places it within a variety of contexts that are literary, medical, political, and theological, and her anthology will be a valuable resource for those in the field of literature and medicine and the medical humanities more generally.’ The British Society for Literature and Science