UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Humanist method and the prophetic office of English poetry in the works of Edmund Spenser and John Milton Evans-Cockle, Matthew


Erasmus’s Renaissance humanist grammatical hermeneutics changed the way theology was conceived and practiced. The literary critical resources Erasmus brought to theology from the study of the classical poets, however, were not only powerful agents of change within Reformation theology. They were also retrieved for poetry by early modern authors. Key Erasmian concepts and perspectives relating to both bonae litterae and sacrae litterae as well as to secular pedagogy and rhetorical theology were assimilated by English culture and provided important foundational elements within the early modern prophetic poetics of Edmund Spenser and John Milton. Careful consideration of the manner in which these Erasmian concepts and perspectives were integrated into Spenser and Milton’s understandings of both poetry and the poetic vocation provides important insight into the complex theological dimensions of these poets’ work—particularly into the workings and significance of a number of Spenser and Milton’s most challenging religious figures and into the prophetic claims related to their mimetic production.

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