By Alison Shell
The Catholic contribution to English literary tradition has been largely missed or misunderstood. This publication units out to rehabilitate a variety of Catholic imaginitive writing, whereas exposing the position of anti-Catholicism as an creative stimulus to mainstream writers in Tudor and Stuart England. It discusses canonical figures equivalent to Sidney, Spenser, Webster and Middleton along many lesser-known writers. Alison Shell explores the Catholic rhetoric of loyalism and apostasy, and the stimulus given to the Catholic literary mind's eye through the persecution and exile such a lot of of those writers suffered.
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Extra resources for Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660
Chapter one addresses the anti-Catholic revenge tragedies of Webster and Middleton, the manner in which their imagery took its bearings from anti-Catholic polemic, and how since the plays came back into mainstream fashion in the late nineteenth century, this inspiration has not been recognised. Without wishing to denigrate either writer, it argues that their plays have taken on a fortuitous enigmatism because the tropes of anti-Catholic polemic are no longer part of most people's frame of reference; yet that, because those controversial tropes have contributed to a stereotype, this very enigmatism can, in turn, encourage an unconscious re-association of Catholicism with evil.
In terms of garments, `the faults of great men through their cerecloths break' (i ii, l. 16) while the Duke speci®es `Give me that sin that's rob'd in holiness' (iii v, l. 138). Vindice loathes his inside when he is engaged in corrupting Gratiana: `turn the precious side / Of both mine eyeballs inward, not to see myself ' (ii i, ll. 127±8). But the contradiction of outside and inside is fully exempli®ed in the supposed diabolical possession of Gratiana. She is proleptic of endless maternal shame and deceit: `All mothers that had any graceful hue / Would have worn masks to hide their face at you' (iv iv, ll.
Behind each curtain an epitome of corruption is disclosed, an abstract concept commonly given human iconographical form. On Robinson's title-page, truth is apprehended and falsity destroyed by the single act of drawing the curtain, and the revelation is simply obscene; but Barnes's devil in vestments presents again the apocalyptic necessity to strip. It also ful®ls an iconographical commonplace, since in medieval iconography images were considered memorable insofar as they were either beautiful or monstrous.