Mortal Love: Erotic Verse in the English Renaissance


ACLS Fellowship Program


English and American Literature


This project examines the relationship between love and death in Renaissance lyric poetry. The project began by noticing a single, central difference between Italian and English love poetry: that whereas Petrarch and his followers treat the death of the beloved as an integral part of their love stories, English Renaissance poets never imagine an afterlife for love. The consequences of this difference can be felt in the types of poems that English poets write, poems that derive their power from assuming rather than denying real limits to love’s duration. This project explains the relationship between this body of English love poems and cultural attitudes towards death, burial, and the possibility of transcendence in the century following the Protestant Reformation.