History, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 1990


Published in ALBION: A QUARTERLY JOURNAL CONCERNED WITH BRITISH STUDIES, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Autumn, 1990), pp. 474-476. Copyright © 1990 Appalachian State University, published by University of Chicago Press. Used by permission.


Phillippa Berry has written a solidly researched and ambitious study of the impact of Elizabeth I and the cult of the Virgin Queen on Elizabethan literature. Berry's stated goal is to clarify contradictory relations of gender in the discourses of idealized love of Petrarchan love poetry and Neoplatonic philosophy, which so much influenced Renaissance literature. Berry wishes to explore the interrelationship between the love discourses and the cult of Elizabeth. As her title suggest, Berry is concerned to examine a number of literary texts that intertwine issues of sexual and political power. She argues that in sixteenth-century France as well as England the ideology of absolutism appropriated idealized attitudes toward love. These concerns, Berry believes, helped to shape the way monarchy was represented aesthetically. ... What is most problematic about Berry's work is her highly specialized language and difficult prose style, which will limit the accessibility of her work and make the audience for this study a narrow one. This is a pity, since Berry's insights are fresh, provocative, and well worth considering.

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