Modern biographies of Sir Thomas More
Ackland, Michael (2009) Modern biographies of Sir Thomas More. In: A Companion to Thomas More. Rosemont Publishing, pp. 39-52.
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Canonizations not only denote but sometimes work wonders. More's came in 1935, and with it renewed interest in his life. The year was rendered doubly propitious by the appearance of R. W Chambers's Thomas More. During the next fifty years. its image of More as humanist, martyr, and latter-day Christian Socrates remained dominant, although occasionally it was given a specifically Catholic tincture in studies such as E. E. Reynolds, The Field Is Won, or its particulars were called into question by documentary evidence presented by G. R. Elton. The major shift in approaches to More's life was ushered in by Stephen Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fashioning: More to Shakespeare. Focusing on the long-established view of More as a highly self-conscious writer and member of his society, Greenblatt teased out its ramifications. If More "felt himself ... to be a supremely constructed self", then "the category of the real merges with that of the fictive"; if in a sense his life was "lived as a histrionic improvisation" then, the critic argued, "the historical More is a narrative fiction". Individual motivation becomes potentially as complex as scholastic exegesis. Below the causation attributable to the historic figure lurk the putative, hidden wellsprings of his deeds. Biographically, these assumptions received book-length treatment in Richard Marius's Thomas More. The result was a modernized and problematized version of the saint's received image. which left the devout scandalized and threatened to spark a scholarly counter-reformation. More recently, two substantial biographies have highlighted the delicately poised state of More studies. Peter Ackroyd's life of the Tudor statesman affords a lively compendium of the already known, whereas John Guy has offered a reasoned, clinical survey of the field, one that threatens to overturn many of the supposed achievements of the last seventy years of More scholarship.
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