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A History of European LiteratureThe West and the World from Antiquity to the Present$
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Walter Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732679.001.0001

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Language, Literature, and Popular Culture in the Age of the Reformation

Language, Literature, and Popular Culture in the Age of the Reformation

(p.200) 8 Language, Literature, and Popular Culture in the Age of the Reformation
A History of European Literature

Walter Cohen

Oxford University Press

The vernacular revolution of the Middle Ages remains crucial in the early modern period. The central English Renaissance literary genres—sonnet, epic, and tragedy—differ formally from their continental models partly owing to the unique history of the English language. But as a Germanic language, English also enters permanently enters the Protestant sphere of influence—an opportunity almost always barred to Romance, Celtic, or Eastern European languages. The crucial mechanism of incorporation is vernacular Bible translation in the early years of the Reformation. A striking consequence of this process is popular appropriation that upsets their elite creators (Luther, Milton). The phenomenon has intriguing parallels with contemporaneous developments in South Asian popular culture, parallels that might lead to speculation on the differential effects of the long-term success of Islam in South Asia and its failure in Western Europe.

Keywords:   sonnet, English language, Protestant Reformation, Luther, Milton, popular culture, South Asia

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