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: For many years C. S. Lewis's dismissal of the sixteenth century as a 'drab age' influenced literary scholars. Andrew Hadfield offers a challenging reinterpretation, through study of the work of some of the century's most important writers, including Skelton, Bale, Sidney, Spenser, Baldwin and the Earl of Surrey. He argues that all were involved in the establishment of a vernacular literary tradition as a crucial component of English identity, yet also wished to use the category of 'literature' to create a public space for critical political debate. Conventional assumptions - that pre-modern and modern history are neatly separated by the Renaissance, and that literary history is best studied as an autonomous narrative - are called into question: this book is a study of literary texts, but also a contribution to theories and histories of politics, national identity and culture.