Article

Early Modern Prose, 1500-1650

Andrew Hadfield

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0019
Early Modern Prose, 1500-1650

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Prose has, of course, always existed as a means of defining nonmetrical writing. It assumed particular importance in the early modern period (c. 1500–1650) after the advent of the printing press, which led to an exponential increase in the number of works produced in English. Many of these were in prose, the most widespread and straightforward mode of writing, because authors from a greater range of social backgrounds now had access to the public sphere, and the subjects available to a wider readership also increased dramatically. The early modern period, especially after the advent of the British Civil War (or “War of the Three Kingdoms”), witnessed the advent of newsbooks and news writing, a key category that defines most peoples’ understanding of print culture today. The period also saw major advances in science that were disseminated in prose treatises for large audiences, a transformation that had a major impact on the change in prose style. Other forms of prose writing also emerged in this period—notably the essay, an experiment in writing that was closely linked to autobiography. Prose can be conceived in two interrelated ways: as a form of writing and a series of subjects that are represented in prose. Either way, the category straddles the divide between fiction and nonfiction.

Article.  11607 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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