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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the interconnections among piety, politics, and poetry in the life and work of Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney-Herbert: the siblings whose partnership arguably launched the English literary Renaissance as we know it. As co-creators of The Sidney Psalter and The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, Philip and Mary pioneered an aesthetic fashioned from their consciousness of the Fall. They imagine into being fictions whose scope is to move readers to lives of active virtue by inspiring them with dazzling images of ‘what may be and should be’. While the optimism of such a poetics may seem at odds with Protestant theology as it is sometimes understood, it is in fact an outgrowth of the Sidneys’ Reformed commitments. By way of engagement, especially with the ideas of Philip Melanchthon’s humanist followers, they shaped a religiously moderate, anti-confessional literary culture at odds with the strict Calvinism of the day.

Keywords: Reformed, poetics, Melanchthon, Calvinism, Sidney, Herbert, gender, anti-confessional, Philippists, Psalms

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