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October 02 , 2008

The Culture of Cloth in Early Modern England

Textual Constructions of a National Identity


Through its exploration of the intersections between the culture of the wool broadcloth industry and the literature of the early modern period, this study contributes to the expanding field of material studies in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. The author argues that it is impossible to comprehend the development of emerging English nationalism during that time period, without considering the culture of the cloth industry. She shows that, reaching far beyond its status as a commodity of production and exchange, that industry was also a locus for organizing sentiments of national solidarity across social and economic divisions. Hentschell looks to textual productions-both imaginative and non-fiction works that often treat the cloth industry with mythic importance-to help explain how cloth came to be a catalyst for nationalism. Each chapter ties a particular mode, such as pastoral, prose romance, travel propaganda, satire, and drama, with a specific issue of the cloth industry, demonstrating the distinct work different literary genres contributed to what the author terms the 'culture of cloth'.

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