This study attempts to view both Reformation discourse and Renaissance fiction (and, by implication, the Elizabethan theatre) as constitutive of an early modern paradigm change in the authorization of discourse. The profound crisis in traditional locations of authority, affecting religious, political, and poetic courts of appeal, is traced as interactive with an unprecedented proliferation of both signifying practices and communicative technologies. Representation itself seeks to cope with these changing uses of language and power vis-a-vis deep divisions (but also new patterns of socialization) in contemporary culture and society. Authority, now that it is less given before an utterance begins, comes to constitute itself through the competence, cogency, and efficacy of representational practice itself, even as this practice privileges, and draws upon, pictorial form in diverse cultural contexts. This book continues to search for answers to questions of why and under what conditions in the early modern period the representation of authority could increasingly be challenged by the authority of signs.
Initially raised in Weimann's "Shakespeare und die Macht der Mimesis", these questions are developed towards a theory and history of early modem representation that involves close encounters with a wide variety of texts, from Luther, Henry Tudor, Edward Seymour, Gardiner and Bancroft to Malory, Erasmus, Rabelais, Sidney, Nashe and Cervantes.