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Where do we start when thinking about literature in transition? This chapter uses the volume’s start date, 1700, as the basis for interrogating both the ideas of ‘literature in transition’ and ‘early modern’. Taking Edmund Spenser’s ruminations on change and permanence in the ‘Mutabilitie Cantos’ as its own point of departure, the chapter shows how the paradigm of transition is illuminated by writing in Irish, Latin, and English produced in the century or so preceding 1700. If political turmoil, linguistic contestation, and ethnic strife are the drivers of narrative and self-articulation, of literary resilience, innovation, consolidation, and decline, then the crucible of early modern Ireland has an arresting claim to the concept of transition. Writing in a period of irreversible change generates genealogical firsts – precursors of what is to follow – but also genres specific to their own time. The chapter probes the relationship of literature with transition: as representing change, as its written record, as the document of response to a new world taking shape, or of self-assertion in that world. Finally, it considers questions of perspective, arguing that scholarship is immersed in its own moment and that this directs us to the determining role of the end point in identifying beginnings.
This chapter examines the dominance of the single-author volume over the editing of Katherine Philips, exploring its implications for our understanding both of Philips’s seventeenth-century reception and of early modern editorial practices. It begins with a survey of modern editorial approaches to anthologizing Philips’s work, then considering the prominence of the posthumous 1667 edition in the context of the allegedly pirate Poems (1664) and manuscript witnesses to Philips during her lifetime. It is argued that these contemporary manuscripts follow Philips’s own self-construction as a singular female poet by presenting her work in a single-author context. Poems (1664) is not the outlier that is often thought; rather it is wholly consistent with modes of circulation while Philips was alive and with the practice of contemporaries (Cavendish, King, Waller) whose single-author volumes of poetry were also printed that same year. But it does mark the moment where circulation is sundered from authorial intentionality and social proximity. Philips’s penetration of miscellany culture occurred posthumously. We have inherited multiple single-author versions of Philips the living poet, and multiple posthumous appropriations of Philips in manuscript culture. This suggests two models of early modern editorial practice and an intentionality that dispersed beyond the author to her earliest editors.