chapter  5
26 Pages

Abraham Cowley and the English Literary Canon

WithGail Mobley

Cowley’s influence on generic forms in the seventeenth century, and how this in turn helped shape the English literary canon, is the topic of this chapter. Though in large measure he is neglected today, Cowley was, Gail Mobley reminds us, an exceedingly popular poet, during his lifetime and for many years afterwards, inspiring Dryden, Milton, and Pope, among others. Thus a careful examination of his life, works, and career provides ample insight into the nature of the English literary canon that emerged during the mid-seventeenth century. The literary canon is often viewed as a retroactive artefact, evaluating the merit of authors and their works posthumously. However, many authors in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries engaged in activities that can be recognised as self-canonising. In this chapter, Mobley considers: through an[Q4] analysis of Cowley’s life and oeuvre, particularly Poetical Blossoms, Mobley identifies the important contributions he made to the development and conception of English canonical literature.