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The island garden : England's language of nation from Gildas to Marvell /
Lynn Staley.
Notre Dame, Ind. : University of Notre Dame Press, c2012.
x, 345 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), map ; 23 cm.
0268041407 (pbk. : alk. paper), 9780268041403 (pbk. : alk. paper)
More Details
series title
Notre Dame, Ind. : University of Notre Dame Press, c2012.
0268041407 (pbk. : alk. paper)
9780268041403 (pbk. : alk. paper)
contents note
Introduction : The language of place -- Writing in the shadow of Bede : England, the island garden -- The island garden and the anxieties of enclosure -- The fourteenth century and place -- Susanna and her garden -- Conclusion : island discourse.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 301-333) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Lynn Staley is Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English, Colgate University
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-12-01:
Staley (Colgate Univ.) explores the metaphor of the island garden as it pertains to England's continual search for (and understanding of) its own sense of national identity. A thread that runs through this is the sense of enclosure that permeates the texts that form the basis of the book. The first chapter looks at a number of literary histories of England. Staley places the works of the early English historians and historiographers (such as Bede, Gildas, William of Malmesbury, and Henry of Huntingdon) within a literary continuum, through the texts of the Brut tradition, Tudor historians, and Milton's own History of Britain. The third chapter reveals once again Staley's expertise in the field of 14th-century English literature, especially works written during the reign of Edward III, such as the chapter's central text, Langland's Piers Plowman, wherein Staley contrasts the realities of agrarian life with the idyllic royal vision of the island. Staley's book is both extremely straightforward in its argument and wide-ranging in its literary, cultural, and historical scope. The end result is a wholly satisfying scholarly endeavor, well written and researched. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. A. L. Kaufman Auburn University at Montgomery
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, December 2012
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Main Description
For centuries England's writers used the metaphor of their country as an island garden to engage in a self-conscious debate about national identity. In The Island Garden: England's Language of Nation from Gildas to Marvell,Lynn Staley suggests that the trope of Britain as an island garden catalyzed two crucial historical perspectives and thus analytic modes: as isolated and vulnerable, England stood in a potentially hostile relation to the world outside its encircling sea; as semi-enclosed and permeable, it also accepted recuperative relationships with those who moved across its boundaries. Identifying the concept of enclosure as key to Britain's language of place, Staley traces the shifting meanings of this concept in medieval and early modern histories, treatises, and poems. Beginning with Gildas in the sixth century, Staley maintains that the metaphor of England as the island garden was complicated, first, by Bede in the eighth century and later by historians, polemicists, and antiquarians. It allowed them to debate the nature of England's identity in language whose point might be subversive but that was beyond royal retribution. During the reign of Edward III, William Langland employed the subjects and anxieties linked to the island garden metaphor to create an alternative image of England as a semi-enclosed garden in need of proper cultivation. Staley demonstrates that Langland's translation of the metaphor for nation from a discreet and royal space into a communally productive half-acre was reformulated by writers such as Chaucer, Hoccleve, Tusser, Johnson, and Marvell, as well as others, to explore the tensions in England's social and political institutions. From the early thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, English treatments of the biblical story of Susanna capture this self-conscious use of metaphoric language and suggest a perspective on law, individual rights, and conscience that is ultimately crucial to England's self-conception and description. Staley identifies in literary discourse a persistent argument for England as a garden that is enclosed yet not isolated, and that is protected by a law whose ideal is a common good that even kings must serve. The Island Gardenis a fascinating and focused exploration of the ways in which authors have developed a language of place to construct England's cultural, social, and political identity. "Lynn Staley's The Island Garden: England's Language of Nation from Gildas to Marvell is a capacious, erudite, ruminative, recursive work that explores the complex web of discourses that composed the identity and history of England. Staley shows us the ways in which writers formed a range of images for England as they engaged with different political contexts. Hers is not a unilinear, teleological history; rather, we encounter a patient display of continuity in the resources of historical imagination from medieval to early modern." - David Aers, Duke University
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviationsp. ix
Introduction: The Language of Placep. 1
Writing in the Shadow of Bede: England, the Island Gardenp. 15
The Island Garden and the Anxieties of Enclosurep. 71
The Fourteenth Century and Placep. 121
Susanna and Her Gardenp. 177
Conclusion: Island Discoursep. 227
Notesp. 243
Works Citedp. 301
Indexp. 335
Figures followp. 182
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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