Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
My first book, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558–1660 (1999), presented the English and Latin writing of post-Reformation Catholic Englishmen and women as a topic suitable for serious literary-critical consideration in the academic mainstream. While writing it I had moments of feeling like a lone crusader, since I was less aware than I should have been that I was part of a movement: what Ken Jackson and Arthur Marotti have identified as the ‘turn to religion’, which has been such a defining feature of early modern literary studies for the last decade or so. In part, this has surely been due to the long-term effects of new historicism; while often characterised by reductive attitudes to religion in its heyday, the movement spread a tolerance of non-canonical writing and an attentiveness to the historical moment which remain essential stimuli to any research that attempts to span literature and history. Researchers who operate from within English departments, as I do, have also been able to draw upon huge recent historical advances in our understanding of the English Reformation, for which we must thank such scholars as John Bossy, Patrick Collinson, Eamon Duffy, Christopher Haigh, Peter Lake, Nicholas Tyacke and Alexandra Walsham. While our preoccupations have often been different from those of historians, this has led to creative cross-fertilisation, and historians have sometimes repaid the compliment by engaging with material more usually the province of literary critics.