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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews a range of sixteenth-century first-person writing, including career narratives, chronicles, accounts of experience abroad, and versions of the self in verse. It then discusses Thomas Whithorne's autobiographical manuscript, ‘The Book of Songs and Sonnets’. Whithorne's manuscript records his verse, both secular and religious, contextualizing them with long prose narratives which present a life that strives to achieve social and professional success at the same time as conforming to approved standards of virtue. This text, however, shares a great deal in common with, and can only be properly understood as an example of, first-person writing more generally in the sixteenth century, particularly its concern with finding a stable and acceptable social identity, and its use of verse to produce rhetorically heightened versions of the self.

Keywords: first-person writing, sixteenth-century texts, personal experience, The Book of Songs and Sonnets

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