logo

http://northernrenaissance.org | ISSN: 1759-3085

Creative Commons License

Published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License.

You are free to share, copy and transmit this work under the following conditions:

Conference Report – Myth and Emotion in Early Modern Europe

Katherine Heavey (University of Glasgow)
& Gordon Raeburn (University of Melbourne) 

 

[1] On 10 March 2016, the University of Melbourne, in association with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE), hosted a one-day seminar on the topic of ‘Myth and Emotion in Early Modern Europe’. The seminar was organised by Dr Gordon Raeburn (University of Melbourne) and Dr Katherine Heavey (University of Glasgow) and was generously supported by CHE and the University of Melbourne. The seminar attracted speakers from across Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Cora Fox (Arizona State University).

Lucas van Leyden, Pyramus and Thisbe, 1514

Lucas van Leyden, Pyramus and Thisbe, 1514

[2] Established in 2011 under the Australian Research Council’s Centres of Excellence Program, and based at the University of Western Australia in Perth, CHE has nodes at the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, the University of Adelaide, and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The Centre’s overarching purpose is to recover the history of emotions from Europe between 1100 and 1800. The History of Emotions is a broad field, which has garnered attention in recent years, and attracts scholars from fields beyond the humanities, such as neuroscience and psychology. One of the emerging strengths of the field is the multiplicity of ways in which emotions are approached in relation to other aspects of history and literature, for instance the focus in this seminar upon the place of emotions within early modern reimaginings of classical myth.

[3] This seminar sought to underscore and explore the connections early modern authors perceived between myth and emotion, and explored a range of research questions, including:

  • Which classical myths were most popular, among authors seeking emotional effect?
  • How were myths rewritten to alter or increase the emotional impact? Could comic myths become tragic, or was it more likely for tragic myths to become comic?
  • Why did authors choose to rewrite known stories in this way? How does an iconic reshaping of a classical story’s emotional impact (such as Shakespeare’s rewriting of Pyramus and Thisbe into a comic interlude) affect our perception of the original myth, or hypotext?
  • What might the ‘emotionalising’ of a particular myth (for example by giving the reader access to a character’s previously unspoken thoughts or feelings) have to tell us about the cultural or literary context in which it was written? What might it suggest about attitudes to women; foreigners; or the relationship between reader and audience?

The seminar addressed the marrying of myth and emotion across a wide range of genres (poetry, prose, drama, epic), from the Middle Ages to the early eighteenth century, and in the works of both canonical early modern authors (Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson) and their lesser-known predecessors and contemporaries (John Rolland, Richard Robinson).Papers approached the topic from a variety of perspectives, asking how myth might be used to intervene in, or contribute to, political or religious debates (for example Gordon Raeburn’s paper on John Rolland, and Brandon Chua’s on Eliza Haywood); how myth might manipulate emotions to entertain as well as educate (Katherine Heavey on Ben Jonson and Richard Robinson); and how female writers received and reworked myths (Bronwyn Reddan on the myth of Cupid and Psyche in the work of Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy).

[4] The event began with the keynote lecture by Professor Cora Fox, entitled ‘Awe, Happiness and Emotive Intertextuality in The Winter’s Tale’. Fox described The Winter’s Tale as ‘Shakespeare’s most mythic play…dependent on a web of fictional and cultural narratives’. Professor Fox provided a reading of the play – in particular Hermione’s climactic and tragicomic transformation – which demonstrated the work’s ‘emotive intertextuality’, its employment of earlier mythic models (such as the story of Pygmalion) not just to provoke emotional response, but to ‘constitute and attach value to emotions’. Professor Fox showed how the creation of emotion – happiness, sadness, awe – was, and is, key to the play’s impact, in Shakespeare’s day and today. The subsequent discussion broadened to consider how the emotions on display in Shakespeare’s tragicomedy had evolved (and often changed entirely) from his most important contemporary source, Robert Greene’s prose fiction Pandosto (1588). This work does not include Hermione’s famous transformation, but nevertheless, at its climax it draws explicit attention to the question of how an author creates emotional response in the reader, and highlights the fine line between tragedy and comedy.

[5] The first session comprised papers from Dr Katherine Heavey and Dr Diana Barnes (University of Queensland). In her paper, ‘Myth and Emotion in Early Modern England’, Dr Heavey showed how a range of authors, from Ben Jonson to Richard Robinson, reshaped classical myth (and the classical adaptations of their contemporaries, such as Christopher Marlowe) with the intention of creating specific emotional responses in readers and audiences. In Bartholomew Fair, for example, Jonson wants at least a section of his audience to appreciate how his lowbrow and scurrilous rewriting of the story of Hero and Leander differs from Marlowe’s popular poem, and to laugh at his irreverent reworking of myth. In work that was written to be read, too, authors saw the potential to heighten the emotional impact of their source myths – in the little-known dream vision poem The Rewarde of Wickednesse (1574), Richard Robinson gives a posthumous voice to Helen of Troy. The poem exaggerates Helen’s grief, as she recalls her sins in the afterlife, and moreover attempts to dictate the emotional response of Robinson’s readers: women in particular, he argues, should weep (and examine their own moral failings at the same time) as they read the (largely invented) grief of a well-known mythical heroine.

[6] Dr Barnes’ paper, ‘Myth and Emotion “clowdily enwrapped” in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene’, argued that the piece in question was a kaleidoscope of myth generating an array of emotional effect. In The Faerie Queene Spenser sought to lay claim to inherited literary traditions, and to build something new in the process. In so doing he drew threads from a wide range of classical and medieval works, representing his literary inheritance as a repository of myth, resulting in a digressive, episodic, allegorical, and incomplete heroic romance constituting six books and fragments of a seventh. Barnes argued that despite the narratives being bound together by the myth of King Arthur’s service to the Faerie Queene this work was in no way unified by a singular mythic or emotional drive. Dr Barnes highlighted the lack of focus by Spenser scholars upon the relationship between myth and emotion. Finally, she argued that a theory of emotion and its proper governance was at the centre of Spenser’s view of the function, responsibility, and scope of a heroic poetics that serves the commonwealth.

[7] The second session comprised papers from Dr Kirk Essary (University of Western Australia) and Dr Gordon Raeburn. Dr Essary’s paper, ‘Proteus in the Renaissance: Myth and Emotion in Erasmus’, addressed how Erasmus of Rotterdam, a voracious reader of classical myth, recast tales from Greece and Rome within a wide variety of emotional contexts and forms, such as his metaphorical invocation of the shapeshifting Proteus in the Enchiridion, or his use of the battle of Achilles and Hector in the Iliad to instil fear into the Christian soldier through rhetorical amplification. Elsewhere, in the Ecclesiastes Erasmus warned the prospective preacher against the Scylla of arrogance and the Charybdis of despair. Erasmus, of course, was not unfamiliar with irony and laughter, and in the Praise of Folly he employed twisted retellings of ancient myth to such an end. Conversely Erasmus emphasised the pathos of Ovid’s Nux to show how an ostensibly playful poem actually induces pity. Dr Essary ultimately highlighted how Erasmus’ willingness to interact with ancient myth in a variety of emotional contexts over his career reveals his own protean tendencies.

[8] Dr Raeburn’s paper, ‘Myth, Emotion, and Identity in Rolland’s The Court of Venus’, examined the allegorical use of the myth of the court of Venus to describe the state of Scotland and the Scottish church during the period of the European Reformation. The idea of Rolland’s work being allegorical is not new, but it was previously believed to be an allegory for the state of the Scottish law courts at the time. Dr Raeburn demonstrated that Rolland had a deeper layer of allegorical meaning, arguing for reform of the Scottish church from within the pre-existing Catholic structures. Rolland, a Catholic priest until at least 1554, ultimately converted to Protestantism by 1560. It is possible, however, that during the intervening years Rolland recognised the need for the Church to change, without going so far as to embrace Protestantism. Throughout Scotland this would, of course, have been a tumultuous time for both Rolland and others affected by the growing winds of change. As such, in this paper, Raeburn described Rolland’s work as an allegorical description of the emotional state of mid-sixteenth-century Scots.

[9] The third and final session comprised papers from Ms Bronwyn Reddan (University of Melbourne) and Dr Brandon Chua (University of Queensland). Ms Reddan’s paper, ‘Reimagining Cupid and Psyche in the fairy tales of Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy’, considered d’Aulnoy’s version of the Cupid and Psyche tale in her 1697 work, Serpentin Vert. This work retells and revises the Cupid and Psyche myth in order to address the question of whether or not it is possible to love without knowing or seeing the beloved. Unlike Psyche’s perfect physical beauty, d’Aulnoy’s heroine Laideronnette is cursed with a profound ugliness. Laideronnette, like Psyche, marries an unseen husband whom she is prohibited from looking upon, a prohibition she disobeys, resulting in her punishment. Ms Reddan argued that when read in light of d’Aulnoy’s representation of love in her other tales, Laideronnette’s failure to obey is inevitable, because d’Aulnoy suggests that sight is imperative to love. As such, Laideronnette cannot love her husband without looking upon him. Her curiosity is not emblematic of female weakness; it rebalances the relationship between husband and wife.

[10] Finally, Dr Chua’s paper, ‘Myth, History, and the Orient: Eliza Haywood’s The Adventures of Eovaii (1742) and the Politics of Sinophilia’, examined the fusion of Greco-Roman myth with the oriental tale in the Secret History, a subgenre of historiography that thrived in the Restoration and the eighteenth-century print market. The form of the Secret History was shown to have exploited the growing appetite for political scandal in the period following the English Civil Wars, using the distancing frames of classical myth and the oriental tale to demystify the secret workings of the state by publicising and politicising the private lives of the chief players at court. Dr Chua’s paper, employing as a case study Eliza Haywood’s scathing history of the Walpole administration, considered how the transportation of classical myth into the oriental tale enabled the genre of the Secret History to register the representational crises at stake in a public sphere undergoing profound reconstitutions by new forms of political literacy.

11] ‘Myth and Emotion in Early Modern Europe’ showed how early modern myth might be outward-facing and dynamic, reflective of the present moment and contemporary concerns as well as of the past. Simultaneously, it showed how for hundreds of years, authors have been preoccupied with using literature to explore the nature, creation and expression of emotion. The range of papers and critical and theoretical approaches demonstrated the centrality of myth to the early modern literary imagination, but also its flexibility. Myth was adopted and adapted in a myriad of ways to reflect and to shape both individual and collective emotion in early modern Europe.

[12] The organisers would like to extend their thanks to all participants, and to the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. Further information about the Centre and its work can be found here: http://www.historyofemotions.org.au/ and you can also follow its research activities on Facebook and on Twitter: @ThinkEmotions.

Jason Powell (ed.), The Complete Works of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, Volume I, Prose (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Jason Powell (ed.), The Complete Works of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, Volume I, Prose (Oxford University Press, 2016). ISBN: 978-0-1992-2860-7 (h/bk), 485 pp., 11 b&w ills., £125.

Reviewed by Chris Stamatakis

[1] As a prose writer, Thomas Wyatt has largely gone ignored by literary historiography. After a brief burst of interest in 9780199228607the decades after Wyatt’s death in 1542 – Richard Sherry’s Treatise of schemes and tropes (1550), an aid to the ‘better vnderstanding of good authors’, acknowledges ‘that ornamente Syr Thomas Wyat’ as a writer who ‘flouryshed’ in eloquence, sought out ‘elegance and proper speaches’, and ‘endeuoured’ to make the English language ‘copyous and plentyfull’ – Wyatt’s prose rhetoric, his facility in ‘proper speaches’, has typically been overlooked. Wyatt does not, for instance, feature in Morris Croll’s magisterial Style, Rhetoric, and Rhythm (1966), and has rarely been discussed by recent commentators as a prose writer at all.

[2] Yet he was, in some ways, no less a pioneer of prose genres than a poetic innovator. Wyatt’s Quyete of Mynde (a translation from Plutarch’s Moralia and a self-professedly ‘lytell boke’ dedicated to Queen Katherine of Aragon) is the first printed English translation from Plutarch, and indeed the first classical moral essay published in English. His prose output seems intrinsically entwined with his poetic corpus, and invites many of the same literary-critical questions: questions about his authorial presence in the text; about his ventriloquism, personification, use of voice; about his bivalent strategies of evasiveness on the one hand and crystalline precision on the other; about his adroitness in constructing an illusion of privacy and spoken immediacy; about his techniques of translation from European vernaculars and Latin, and (in the Quyete of Mynde) his perhaps surprising decision to metaphrase verse quotations as prose; and about the character of his syntactical stamp – at times a stark, terse style, what Wyatt himself christened a ‘shorte maner of speche’.

[3] The privileging of Wyatt-the-poet partly reflects a regressive stance towards early Tudor prose. Henrician prose has readily been dismissed, to use Sir Thomas Elyot’s terms from his 1531 Boke named the Governour, as a mere ‘shadowe, or figure of the auncient rhetorike’, an impoverished, dilapidated simulacrum of classical eloquence, something falling short of ‘the other harmony of prose’ grandiloquently monikered by Dryden in the late seventeenth century. Critical neglect of Wyatt’s prose, specifically, has been exacerbated by the absence of a proper edition: Kenneth Muir’s 1963 Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt is a quaint but ultimately rushed, incomplete collection, whose critical inadequacies are only now being remedied by Jason Powell’s meticulous, monumental, authoritative edition, part a two-volume ‘Complete Works’ of Wyatt, and the first complete, scholarly edition of Wyatt’s prose.

[4] Unlike his poems, Wyatt’s prose is (conveniently) dated, inviting a narrative of his cursus as a writer. Powell’s edition adopts a four-fold division, by genre (which coincidentally tallies with chronology): first, The Quyete of Mynde; then Wyatt’s two ‘Fatherly Letters’ of counsel to his son; next, his ‘Diplomatic Correspondence’ comprising thirty-five letters and memoranda from his European embassies; finally, two ‘Treason Trial Documents’, namely Wyatt’s so-called Declaration (composed during his imprisonment in the Tower at the Privy Council’s request, detailing his dealings with traitors during his ambassadorial enterprises) and his Defence (a longer forensic apologia ostensibly designed as a trial speech although Wyatt was pardoned before he could deliver it).

[5] Powell frames Wyatt’s prose with critical introductions, prefatory headnotes, and dexterous but economical footnotes offering extensive biographical and historical annotation, linguistic glosses, and lexicographic ballast. This edition, unashamedly (and necessarily) scholarly though admirably readable, is most obviously a masterpiece of bibliography and codicology. It painstakingly reconstructs the composition of Wyatt’s texts; charts, via stemmatics, the transmission of his prose and gauges its reach, reception, and ‘influence’; attends to the implications of the mise-en-page; and ventures new archival discoveries (identifying the unknown recipient of Wyatt’s last surviving diplomatic letter). Not only a triumph of book history, this edition also establishes invaluable compositional and historical contexts, detailing the genesis, sources, generic affiliations, and rhetorical pedigree of Wyatt’s prose. Powell’s architecture of notes, appendices, and glossaries makes this writing newly legible and intelligible, even to readers familiar with Tudor court culture and Wyatt’s biography.

[6] Book historians and scholars of manuscript circulation will find endless rewards in the textual introductions, apparatus criticus, appendicular descriptions of textual witnesses, and the several high-quality black-and-white illustrations of selected Wyattian prose works. Historians of Tudor politics and diplomacy will relish the wealth of proxy material in the notes and appendices, including biographies of the dramatis personae who formed Wyatt’s diplomatic household. Casual readers and students of literature, oratory, and the arts of translation will rethink thematic approaches to Wyatt’s oeuvre: the detailed introductions before each sub-group answer a long-overdue need to place the writer and his writings in their historical, courtly, diplomatic, and literary contexts, offering lucid readings of an author whose writings frequently remain inscrutable. Powell sensibly substitutes the wild goose chase for ‘authorial intentions’ with tangible evidence of ‘authorial practice’, placing Wyatt’s prose in both literary tradition and early Tudor manuscript culture.

[7] This methodology invites renewed scrutiny of, inter alia, the role played by fathers, the applications of memory, and the pairing of ‘diligence’ with its pragmatic, performative counterpart ‘dexterity’ in the duties of Henrician diplomats. Perhaps most crucially, this edition casts light on Wyatt’s versatility as a prose writer. Powell illuminates some of Wyatt’s trademark stylistic, rhetorical facets, not least the functional ambiguity of his diplomatic language, fusing strategic vagueness with particularising detail. A fascinating leitmotif centres on Wyatt’s deft manipulation of orality. As the king’s ‘oratour’ (Wyatt’s own self-appellation in the Declaration), Wyatt treats royal instructions as scripted responses to perform, despite Charles V’s assertion that ‘kynges be not kings of tonges’. Yet in this same capacity as orator, Wyatt the ambassador, no mere metonym for king and country, necessarily translates this script into improvised locutions during his encounters with foreign dignitaries, turning these conversations back into oralised script in his letters to his taskmasters at home.

[8] Wyatt’s lexical dexterity, the tacit hero of this volume, is charted by the fascinating table of ‘OED Antedatings’ which lists Wyatt’s inaugural use of terms found in, or predating, the Oxford English Dictionary’s citations – one of many gems necessarily squirrelled away in the paratext of Powell’s edition. This catalogue attests Wyatt’s obsession with writerly and readerly procedures, especially those terms figuring the arts of conversation (‘conferring’ as an activity of discussing), or failures to communicate (‘mysrelation’ as false reports, ‘non agrement’ as a failed consensus), or the interface between oral and written (‘discourse’ denoting both a ‘written treatment’ and ‘a talk’), or the modes of signification itself (the verb ‘inport’ for ‘import’, the noun ‘intelligens’ as both ‘news’ and ‘understanding’). Wyatt’s evident versatility, interlingual facility, and appeal to diverse audiences are among this volume’s many intellectual payoffs. Powell’s edition is accessible, rigorous, comprehensive, and indispensable, and will not easily be surpassed.

University College London, September 2016

Dolly MacKinnon, Earls Colne’s Early Modern Landscapes (Ashgate, 2014)

Dolly MacKinnon, Earls Colne’s Early Modern Landscapes (Ashgate, 2014).  ISBN 978-0-7546-3964-0, 323 pp. +xvii, £95.00.

Reviewed by Philippa Woodcock

[1] In contrast to ‘the new trajectory of landscape history’ (6) by Walsham, Whyte and Tilley, which survey and analyse changes to a large geographical sweep of the religious or economic landscape, MacKinnon’s work is the result of over twenty years of research on one particular Essex village, Earls Colne. MacKinnon acknowledges that she is not the first historian to have focused on this village: in fact, its history is ‘A Well-trodden field’. (1) Yimageset, she is one of the few to have perhaps such a close connection to it, as she allows the text to be peppered with anecdotes of her own time in Earls Colne: when she visited the priory wall in 1993 (256); or a walk of the village in 1991. (288) What clearly attracted MacKinnon, and others to this village is never hidden by the author. As well as the remaining physical traces of the early modern landscape, it is fabulously well documented.

[2] Owing its name to the de Vere Earls of Oxford, MacKinnon says she aims to tell the cultural history of the village in the seventeenth century, to ‘determine the ways in which certain people inscribed meaning into the creation and renovation of the landscape.’ (4) She begins by outlining the village’s pre-history, its physical boundaries, and its rise as a centre of medieval religious and economic activity, when it boasted a Priory, two manor houses, and a parish church. She then tells us what is missing from today’s landscape, the Priory church long having disappeared, along with a grammar school and the de Veres themselves, whose influence was written over by ‘the forward thinking aspirations of new families intent upon writing themselves into the landscape’. (35) Thus, given these gaps, she argues the way to access the past is ‘to step from the page into the sensual world’ (6) of the accounts of those ‘men, antiquarians and historians, who variously relied upon the evidence from the landscape, material culture, word of mouth, memory and the written records of the village’. (7) She adds a caveat that the words of women must also be listened to, and indeed, throughout the book. MacKinnon gives us the voice of the village’s marginal, or silenced characters. She overturns ideas about a ‘heterotopic landscape’ (4) to ‘reconstitute aspects of the lives of some families and individuals from Earls Colne, predominantly but not exclusively from the gentry and below…whose life experience both in and beyond the village, form threads throughout the book’. (10)

[3] However, the strongest voice, binding these experiences is that of the vicar, Ralph Josselin, who arrived in 1640, and remained in Earls Colne until his death in 1683. His likeness remains, flanking the west door to the parish church, St Andrews. MacKinnon is not the first to explore his diary, which chronicles life through the religious upheaval of the Civil Wars, the Republic, and the Restoration, in an often surprisingly liberal way, but she does use it as a vital narrative thread to link what is really an exploration of the religious landscape through extremely close reading of documents in the Essex Record Office.

[4] The text is organised in three parts, each made up of short case study chapters. MacKinnon begins by exploring how people in the past wrote about and represented their world, in antiquarian accounts, maps, and formal legal texts such as manorial records and religious testaments. Chapter five explores the trespass of ‘goodman’ William Death in 1652/53, a yeoman farmer, and MacKinnon masterfully reconstructs a map to his economic activity, social reputation, and his physical occupation of space, as well as the contemporary renovation of the landscape. This is a lesson to fully understanding records in their manorial and religious context, neither of which can stand separately, for the manor was ‘the bounty of God’s landscape’. (57)

[5] Section II is a close analysis of the parish church, St Andrew’s, seen as the backbone of the landscape, and built from agricultural wealth, such as a medieval endowment from saffron fields. It became the focus of village religious life when the Priory church was dismantled, and the de Vere tombs moved to the parish church nave. Its bells defined the soundscape and were ‘one of the ways in which the views of the parish were heard’, even providing ‘sonic slander’. (75-6, 252) Indeed, the church was more important than the manor house, for it was a space accessible to all, rather than just the private space of the Harlakenden family, the lords of the manor. One of the great strengths of MacKinnon’s approach is to attempt to repopulate this church with people and their political concerns, which the seventeenth century church mediated. For example, by re-contextualising ‘specific archives’ she is able to provide a guide to seating patterns and social distinctions through disputes over pews, and more innovatively, ship money petitions. We can now answer that question so often attached to religious space ‘Where did the women sit?’. The answer is at the back on narrow planks, unless incredibly deaf, in which case they enjoyed excellent seats near the front. When focused on burial, MacKinnon is intent on bringing the entire village back into the church, and not just those names which remain in memorials, but also of the women who buried their children in unmarked graves. Sources such as the ‘discordant polyphony’ (227) of graffiti, brass slabs, brickwork, ‘a dilapidated duster’ (177) from a heraldic funeral, and oral histories of those excluded from holy burial are re-read, restoring their creators to a place in the community, and supporting MacKinnon’s argument of an incomplete Protestant Reformation.

[6] However, just as much as this is a virtuoso display of how to read and work with documents of all natures, it also carries a warning. Landscapes change, and buildings change, for ‘the parish church, like the landscape, was not a static entity but rather was subject to constant reforms.’ (160) All these records ‘reflect bias of the record keepers through their inclusions and omissions, and offer perception of others’ lives in terms of moral achievement and failure.’ (197) Judgements were evolving as to who belonged to the community, and this community’s ideas about transgression, public, private and communal space. We are reminded strongly of this in part three, where MacKinnon explores events which now seem ridiculous or obscene, and groups which have sat beyond the traditional narrative. Thus, MacKinnon dissects presence of the devil in a mysteriously tolling bell in the 1630s, recorded in 1691 by the credulous Harlakenden family tutor Thomas Woodcock. Once Puritan Divines had intervened “the Noise never gave any disturbance after.” (253) The suicide of a single woman, seen as evidence of diabolical influence, is explored with sympathy as the act of a socially and economically marginalised individual. Likewise, records of Afro-Caribbean parishioners, and the growing Quaker population, one of whom protested by urinating in the parish church, remind us to think of the early modern landscape as a vast network, connected to an expanding British global presence, where more recent social exclusion did not have a place.

[7] This text will inevitably be of interest to local historians, focused on East Anglia, and those working on the socio-cultural landscapes of the seventeenth century, but they may prefer to consult it in a library, given the cost. Indeed, MacKinnon reminds us that it is a shame that ‘family historians and academics rarely collaborate.’, illustrating the resources available from non-academic societies studying Earls Colne. (287) Having established the landscape, it is as much a biography of Earls Colne’s inhabitants, as that of Josselin, an outsider who reached into their lives, just as MacKinnon now does. The text is also very engaging, arranged in short chapters, and there are only a very few proof errors. Yet, I do have reservations. Other critics have pointed to a lack of framework, but I felt that the book was pulling in perhaps too many directions at once. Is it an attempt to repopulate the landscape with people and their beliefs, or is it a history of the religious landscape, including its physical monuments and ever-evolving place names? Perhaps given its narrow geographical focus, it can be both. Equally, whilst we have the landscape of Earls Colne, more could be done to think about the village beyond its bounds. Various characters belonging to London or to other parishes come into Earls Colne – for example, Ashwell, previously vicar of Assington in Suffolk, the Cressenden and Harlakenden families, or even Josselin, but how and why do they arrive here? What value do their connections to other places have in the village itself? Finally, for a text on the landscape, which discusses maps, and physical geography, no readable map of the village is itself provided. Perhaps this is deliberate, leaving the reader to make their own mental map, Mackinnon having told us of her landscape, ‘leaves the reader to deal with theirs.’ (4)

The University of Warwick, September 2016