Literary Historys Alternate Groove: The Expectations of Periodization and SeventeenthCentury Literary Culture Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThis piece investigates the possibilities of periodization and its labels for the mid and later seventeenth century, historical decades which have always posed certain problems for those in search of literary period names. The Interregnum as a historical period has very clear boundaries, but supposedly little literary merit. The standard literary histories of the seventeenth century emphasized continuity with earlier Stuart court literary culture and suggested to us that literature, too, was defeated by a Puritan aesthetic, the Cavalier winter. The Restoration is typically represented as a clean break with the Interregnum. This rupture model creates the expectation that literary culture comes back in from the cold and the countryside; it also privileges certain forms of literature associated with the new court culture. This has hindered the perception of such diverse contemporary writers as John Milton, John Bunyan, and Aphra Behn as emerging from the same period. While the war years and the Interregnum have been recently become the focus of literary study of alternative radical voices womens religious discourse, radical political discourse, and the creation of the genres of journalism this essay looks at yet another Interregnum literary culture, of the reading habits of the middle class, or artisan consumer. Literature is a commercial commodity as well as a cultural one. Leaving aside periodization as a means to assist in evaluating artistic merit, this essay instead uses it to define a discreet slice of time to explore in terms of what was being written and what was being printed and sold, in other words to provide a time frame for a descriptive overview of literary production and consumption.

published proceedings

  • Literature Compass

author list (cited authors)

  • Ezell, M.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Ezell, Margaret

publication date

  • May 2006