Jerry Brotton

The Heirs of Lucretius

The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began


Bodley Head 336pp £20 order from our bookshop

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Stephen Greenblatt wrote a series of dazzling books that changed not just the face of Shakespeare studies, but our entire approach to the European Renaissance. Many students, myself included, chose an academic career in sixteenth-century literature and history because of Greenblatt’s exciting New Historicism, a combination of anthropology, psychoanalysis and post-structuralism that seemed to offer a way out of the arid formalism of prevailing literary criticism, and which provided a new way of understanding the relations between literature and its historical context. Greenblatt wrote of the ‘circulation of social energy’ in Renaissance England, and of how the theatre in particular defined – as much as it reacted to – pressing issues of the time such as political absolutism, colonisation, sexuality, witchcraft and fears surrounding strangers or aliens such as Jews, Turks, and American Indians. Thanks in part to Greenblatt, these issues are now central to the teaching of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,