Institute of English Studies Fellow wins Ben Jonson literary prize

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Professor Brian Vickers, FBA, (IES senior research fellow) has won the 2014 Beverley Rogers Literary Award for an article on 17th-century playwright, Ben Jonson. This annual prize is given to the writer of the best essay in each year’s volume of the Ben Jonson Journal, a twice-a-year review devoted to the study of the playwright and ‘the culture in which his manifold literary efforts thrived’.

Sir Brian describes his article, Ben Jonson's Classicism Re-visited, as a reflection ‘on some aspects of Jonson’s classical learning and how he used it’. He said, ‘Rather than attempting to survey this literature, I have tried to place Jonson in his appropriate context of a writer of the late Renaissance.

'Like every other Renaissance writer, Jonson's education at Westminster school was almost entirely devoted to the Latin language and literature, with a smattering of Greek,’ explained Sir Brian.

‘I trace the process by which he incorporated his reading into his plays, not always digested and adapted to context. In his poems, as I show, he had more freedom to re-shape his models and go beyond them, shifting from imitatio to emulatio, speaking in his own English voice. No-one who reads his lovely poem to Celia, ''Drink to me only with thine eyes, | And I will pledge with mine", would guess that he based it on the Love Letters of Philostratus of Athens (second century A.D.) in a Latin translation'.

To read the essay click here