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Writing the Nation in Reformation England, 1530–1580$
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Cathy Shrank

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199268887

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199268887.001.0001

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John Leland and ‘the bowels of Antiquity’ 1

John Leland and ‘the bowels of Antiquity’ 1

(p.65) 2 John Leland and ‘the bowels of Antiquity’1
Writing the Nation in Reformation England, 1530–1580

Cathy Shrank (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how the antiquarian Leland responded to the pressures placed upon English identities by Henry VIII's split with Rome, when the centres of learning (the monasteries) were being dissolved. It shows how Leland uses his humanist learning to fashion a ‘new’ English history, which presented England as a land with a long tradition of justified resistance to papal authority, and also to refute England's reputation for barbarity by depicting his country as a place of scholarship and of literary and artistic accomplishment. The chapter looks at Leland's topographical writings (both his prose notes in manuscript and printed neo-Latin poetry) and the (sometimes strained) endeavours within these to portray a strong, cohesive island-nation. It also explores his attempted literary history of this island, in which he takes advantage of the slippage between the terms ‘England/English’ and ‘Britain/British’. During the chapter, Leland is compared and contrasted with his friend and contemporary, John Bale.

Keywords:   antiquarianism, monasteries, John Bale, John Leland, neo-Latin poetry

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