Letters

Gibson, Jonathan (2000). Letters. In: Hattaway, Michael ed. A Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 615–619.

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Abstract

A survey of the role played by the genre of the letter in early modern literature and culture. I discuss the nature of early modern epistographical theory, arguing that letter-writers in the period were pulled in three directions: by the medieval ars dictaminis, geared to the registering of hierarchical social distinctions, by Renaissance rhetorical theory, and by the revived theory of the 'familiar' letter. I also highlight the importance of secretaries and messengers in early modern letter-writing and of the widespread anxiety this caused. The chapter concludes with a description of the influence of epistolary structures on printed literature.

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