Mountains, identity and the legend of King Brennus in the early modern English imaginary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores Renaissance English attitudes towards mountains, focusing on the contrasting mountain ascents, and their Latin source texts, featured in John Higgins’s ‘Tragedy of King Brennus’ (1587). This text is used to posit two distinct models for reading mountains’ significance to early modern literary investigations of personal and national identity. Both see British/English nationhood defined in relation to ancient and contemporary Europe, and consider what was at stake in the early modern English negotiation of the translatio imperii in these texts’ reception of Roman literature and history. However, the first presents identity inhering in national landscapes: here, the chapter draws on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline to show the relationship of mountain terrain to ‘indigenous’ identities. The second, by contrast, considers mountain landscapes as both limits and conduits for international exchange. As such, mountains contribute to a composite understanding of Renaissance English national identity which both exploits and transcends the gloom/glory dichotomy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMountain dialogues from antiquity to modernity
EditorsDawn Hollis, Jason König
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781350162839, 9781350162853
ISBN (Print)9781350162822, 9781350194106
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2021

Publication series

NameAncient environments


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