Speaking pictures : the sacramental vision of Philip Sidney
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This dissertation examines some of the Catholic ideas and people found in the life and writings of Philip Sidney. Due to Sidney’s aggressive advocacy of a pro-Protestant English foreign policy during the 1570s and 1580s, and to the anti-Catholic biases of many British and American academics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, previous studies have almost unanimously approached Sidney from an exclusively Protestant angle. This Sidney is the hero of English Protestant nationalism, the perfect poet-knight. The Sidney that emerges from the present study is much less unified: thoroughly anti-papal and anti-Spanish in his politics but warmly Catholic in his apparent metaphysical convictions. Catholic theology and devotional traditions were far from dead in Sidney’s England, and he was far from hostile toward them. By recovering Sidney’s engagement with Catholicism, from his consistent generosity to individual Catholics to the numerous sympathetic allusions to Catholic tradition in all his major works, this dissertation provides a new yet historically grounded way of reading Sidney. It also encourages a broader understanding of confessional diversity in the Elizabethan period.