In Age of Iron, Gale Carrithers and James Hardy scrutinize the habits of thought during the so-called long century of the English Renaissance, or Age of Iron, as many then termed it. Through illuminating argument, the authors reassert the essentially religious dynamism of English Renaissance culture, significantly strengthening a nascent countercurrent to recent scholarship's emphasis on secular power as the ascendant preoccupation of the era.
The authors identify four pervasive tropes, or unifying ideas, by which earth and heaven were interrelated in the popular and in the high poetic imaginations: journey, moment, calling, and theater. Unlike recent literary and historical scholarship’s emphasis on secondary issues of political and economic power, class, gender, and race, Carrithers and Hardy underscore love—in its agapaic, philadelphic, and erotic modalities—as a complement and alternative to secular power. They foreground the Book of Common Prayer, the sermons of John Donne, the lyric poetry, masques, and plays of Ben Jonson, and the poetry of John Milton and Andrew Marvell, giving brief attention to works by Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare.
More than a literary study, Age of Iron is an exercise in intellectual history. Its arguments, examples, and scholarly reference make it one of the widest-ranging parsings of English Renaissance culture and imagination in years.
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