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Tobias Gregory

Tobias Gregory teaches Renaissance literature at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

Montaigne’s Career

Tobias Gregory, 8 March 2018

Montaigne​ presents an unusual case for a biographer: since his essays are full of personal details, his readers feel that they know him well already. He tells us that he lacks the impulse to cuddle babies, that he can scarcely tell the cabbages from the lettuces in his garden, that he loses and regains his temper quickly, that he enjoys sex only before going to bed and never standing up,...

John Donne

Tobias Gregory, 19 October 2016

‘He affects​ the Metaphysics,’ Dryden wrote of John Donne, ‘not only in his satires, but in his Amorous Verses, where Nature alone should reign; and perplexes the Minds of the Fair Sex with nice Speculations of Philosophy, when he shou’d ingage their Hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of Love.’ He didn’t mean this as a compliment. When Dr...

George Herbert

Tobias Gregory, 18 December 2014

For​ the gospel message to come as good news, one must first be convinced of some really bad news. This bad news is not obvious, and the devout must work hard to keep it vivid in the minds of their children, their neighbours and themselves. That each of us does a mix of good and bad things is uncontroversial. But to declare the bad and not the good fundamental to human nature, call it...

Thomas Browne

Tobias Gregory, 4 July 2013

It is still often proposed that religion and science need not conflict. Stephen Jay Gould held that they occupy ‘non-overlapping magisteria’: science deals with questions of fact, religion with questions of value and meaning. This is wishful thinking, because religions base themselves on factual claims. The god Yahweh promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants;...

Puritans and Others

Tobias Gregory, 25 August 2011

There is plenty of evidence about the religious beliefs of the ‘plain man’ in early modern England, but it tells us more about the devout and the learned than it does about the lukewarm, the ignorant, the sceptical, or those who muddled through. We know a lot about godly ministers, in their own words and in those of their detractors; we know less about their parishioners. We know...

‘Orlando Furioso’

Tobias Gregory, 9 September 2010

Although Orlando Furioso has comic elements, it is not a comic poem. It is a chivalric romance which incorporates traditional matter – duels, jousts, quests, amorous adventures, damsels in distress, Christians v. Saracens, monsters, magic – as well as Virgilian episodes, bawdy tales, metafictional gestures, a running debate about female virtue, wry commentary on the follies of...

21st-Century Noir

Tobias Gregory, 3 July 2008

Auden remarked that to read pornography in any other way than as a sexual stimulus is to be bored to tears. Crime fiction is similar: you read it for the story, and literary pretensions are unwelcome. The right style is spare, understated. You don’t want philosophy, psychology, political reflections, purple passages or digressions on the Battle of Waterloo. You don’t want displays...

Milton’s Terrorist

Tobias Gregory, 6 March 2008

Milton is the greatest English poet whom it is possible for serious readers to dislike. There are no fans of Marlowe, Jonson or Webster who cannot also find pleasure in Shakespeare; there are no admirers of Piers Plowman or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight who cannot also appreciate The Canterbury Tales. But it is not hard to find enthusiastic readers of Marvell or Spenser or Dryden or Donne...

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