The Culture of Slander in Early Modern England

Slander constitutes a central social, legal and literary concern of early modern England. A category of discourse which transgresses the law, it offers a more historically grounded and fluid account of power relations between poets and the state than that offered by the commonly accepted model of official censorship. An investigation of slander reveals it to be an effective, unstable and reversible means of repudiating one’s opposition that could be deployed by rulers or poets. Spenser, Jonson and Shakespeare each use the paradigm of slander to challenge official criticism of poetry, while contemporary legal theory associates slander with poetry. However, even as rulers themselves make use of slander in the form of propaganda to demonize those they perceive to be their foes, ultimately they are unable to contain completely the threat posed by slanderous accusations against the state.

• Revisionary contribution to study of slander and censorship in Renaissance and early modern literary, political and cultural studies • Provides insight into literary and political aspects of work by Shakespeare, Spenser and Jonson • Major contribution to study of language and its political implications in early modern England


Acknowledgements; Introduction: censorship versus slander; 1. The paradox of slander; 2. Allegories of defamation in The Faerie Queene Books IV-VI; 3. Satire and the arraignment of the Poetaster; 4. Slander for slander in Measure for Measure; Conclusion; Notes; Works cited; Index.


‘… this thoughtful and thought-provoking book deserves a warm welcome.’ Renaissance Journal

Nøkkelord: Historie Kulturhistorie