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Bellamy's Dire Straits Published

Elizabeth Jane Bellamy’s Dire Straits: The Perils of Writing the Early Modern English Coastline from Leland to Milton was published in April 2013, by the University of Toronto Press.

England became a centrally important maritime power in the early modern period, and its writers – acutely aware of their inhabiting an island – often depicted the coastline as a major topic of their works. However, early modern English versifiers had to reconcile this reality with the classical tradition, in which the British Isles were seen as culturally remote compared to the centrally important Mediterranean of antiquity. This was a struggle for writers not only because they used the classical tradition to legitimate their authority, but also because this image dominated cognitive maps of the oceanic world.

As the first study of coastlines and early modern English literature, Dire Straits investigates the tensions of the classical tradition’s isolation of the British Isles from the domain of poetry. By illustrating how early modern English writers created their works in the context of a longstanding cultural inheritance from antiquity, Elizabeth Jane Bellamy offers a new approach to the history of early modern cartography and its influences on literature.


“This volume is an ingenious and persuasive tour de force of interdisciplinary research. Highly recommended.”– A.R. Vogeler”Dire Straits is to be welcomed as an important counter-balance to influential histories of the rise of English patriotism and its figuration through geographic discourse… A book which has much to offer to geographers, historians and students of literature alike.”–Robert Mayhew
“A major contribution to early modern literary studies, Dire Straits surfaces watery connections between familiar figures, including Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton, and less well-known ones, including William Bourne and John Cleveland. Elizabeth Jane Bellamy reveals the struggles of English poets to re-define cold and distant British coastlines against sun-drenched and classical Mediterranean shores. Readers interested in the fluvial shapes of English poetry, the influence of the classics, and the career paths of these writers will find much of value here.”– Steven Mentz, Department of English, St John’s University

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