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date: 14 July 2024

Literature and Form in the Renaissancelocked

Literature and Form in the Renaissancelocked

  • Richard Danson BrownRichard Danson BrownDepartment of English and Creative Writing, The Open University


Literature during the Renaissance period was highly conscious of the language of form. Form is at once ambiguous, questionable, and has ramifications for a number of fields, including issues of line, meter, and versification on the one hand and broader questions of genre on the other. The verse line in 16th-century English literature shows in practice the tensions between humanist idealism and vernacular traditions, as writers of different generations struggled to find a form that would best capture the potential of a politically marginal, culturally ambitious, language. The sonnet is considered as a morphic form of enormous influence that shaped thinking and practice throughout Europe, as in texts by Louise Labé, Edmund Spenser, and Anne Locke. The typically Renaissance form of the stanzaic epic showcases another novel form, illustrated by the interlocking stanzas of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1590–1596), and the ironic mimicking of that form with difference in Donne’s Metempsychosis (dated 1601 but not published until 1633).


  • Middle Ages and Renaissance (500-1600)

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