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Etymology and the Invention of English in Early Modern Literature by Hannah (King's College London) Crawforth

Etymology and the Invention of English in Early Modern Literature


Etymology and the Invention of English in Early Modern Literature by Hannah (King's College London) Crawforth

How did authors such as Jonson, Spenser, Donne and Milton think about the past lives of the words they used? Hannah Crawforth shows how early modern writers were acutely attuned to the religious and political implications of the etymology of English words. She argues that these lexically astute writers actively engaged with the lexicographers, Anglo-Saxonists and etymologists who were carrying out a national project to recover, or invent, the origins of English, at a time when the question of a national vernacular was inseparable from that of national identity. English words are deployed to particular effect - as a polemical weapon, allegorical device, coded form of communication, type of historical allusion or political tool. Drawing together early modern literature and linguistics, Crawforth argues that the history of English as it was studied in the period radically underpins the writing of its greatest poets.


'... what [Crawforth] delivers most of all is an intriguing, compelling, wonderfully considered account of the linguistic worlds of early modern writers, with their special awareness of the soft and hard landings words have in the world.'
Raphael Lyne, The Cambridge Quarterly

About the Author

Hannah Crawforth is a lecturer in Early Modern Literature at King's College London, where she is also one of the founding members of the London Shakespeare Centre. She has published articles in a range of journals and edited collections, and is textual editor for the Norton Shakespeare's new edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st December 2016


Hannah (King's College London) Crawforth

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Cambridge University Press


232 pages


Literary studies: poetry & poets
Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers
Literary studies: classical, early & medieval



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