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Sesson's readings of the poetry and other arts make fine use of the biographical and historical groundwork he has laid in anticipation ... Session's book succeeds where most biographies fell, dispensing with the standard hyperbole only to justify it in the end ... Sessions has done much to give readers a strong sense of the prospects and rewards of immersion in Surrey's life and art. (EMLS, 6.2, Sept 2000)
first comprehensive biography of the Earl of Surrey in 450 years ... when Sessions deals with the imaginative effects of visual spectacles, art and ceremony alike ... he is in his element. (EMLS, 6.2, Sept 2000)
'Sessions has taken up the unenviable task of joining two disparate disciplines, literature and history. The thoroughness of his footnotes testifies to his awareness of the difficulty of this responsibility The important thing is that Sessions has managed to reconstruct the mental world of a man whose historical role was almost as significant as was his literary achievement.' (J.F.R. Day, The Sewanee Review,)
Sessions makes a convincing case for Surrey's central role in reshaping English poetry. He is particularly insightful in his analysis of Surrey's Italian sources for blank verse ... Ultimately, Sessions' masterly narrative of the poet Earl cannot unravel the contradictions inherent in Surrey's own life. But it is a tale well told, finely conceived and skillfully enacted. (John Mulryan, Ben Jonson Journal)
'the reward of Sessions' method is enormous. Its complexity does justice to the complexity of its subject: "the most avant-garde figure" of early Tudor EnglandSessions' analyses of Surrey's poems are characteristically exact, but they are now all the more insightful because they at once inform and are informed by a fully articulated cultural and biographical context. copious documentation and discerning interpretations the major achievement in historical biography and literary history that Sessions' book represents. Both for its thorough study of Surrey's life and legacy, and for the bold enterprise of its aims and methods, Henry Howard, the Poet Earl of Surrey is necessary reading for scholars of the Tudor period.' (J. Christopher Warren, Moreana Vol. 36)
Marked by erudition, enthusiasm, and an elegant style, Sessions' new biography is eminently readable and refreshingly innovative in its approach. (John Mulryan, Ben Jonson Journal)
this richly detailed and deeply engaged and engaging new biography. (Elizabeth Heale, Renaissance Studies, Vol.14, No.3, 2000.)
'In this carefully documented "cultural biography" W.A. Sessions reveals a Surrey far more complex than previously depicted.' (Robert C. Braddock, Renaissance Quarterly)
Sessions is a brilliant analyst of ... visual representations and their significance, attempting to peer through the careful arrangements of surface and emblem to the always tantalizingly absent self beyond. In this sumptuously detailed and illustrated biography, Sessions succeeds in evoking a passionate, visionary, and tragically flawed figure whose literary achievement and significance have been unforgivably neglected in recent decades. (Elizabeth Heale, Renaissance Studies, Vol.14, No.3, 2000.)
Sessions has put his finger on a vital node in early modern culture generally ... this dialetic sets Surrey and his writing on a wide stage, just where early Tudor lives and literature belong. (Thomas F. Mayer, Sixteenth Century Journal, XXXI/2. 00.)
The first comprehensive biography of Henry Howard, Poet Earl of Surrey, this influential book fills a major gap in the history of early modern British culture. Sessions's narrative combines historical scholarship with close readings of poetic texts and Tudor paintings to explore Surrey's unique life. The first cousin of Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (and an influence on his young cousin the Princess Elizabeth), he was beheaded in 1547 on the orders of Henry VIII. Surrey embodied the contradictions of the courtier's role, through his standing both as a representative of the older nobility and heir to the greatest title outside the royal family, and as a poet who wrote innovative texts and created the most enduring poetic forms in England, the English sonnet and blank verse.
More and more, critics and scholars have called for a more contemporary and wider assessment of his role in Tudor society. Sessions uses Surrey's redefinition of the role of Tudor courtier through his poems, his unique portraits, his military campaigns, and his political presence, to reveal how he created the first image in England of the Renaissance courtier. Surrey is also shown to embody the rather more modern image of the poet who writes and invents in the midst of radical violence.
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