Cooley, Ronald W.

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Cooley, Ronald W.




Office—Department of English, University of Saskatchewan, 320 Arts Tower, 9 Campus Dr., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A5, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, professor of English. Supervising editor of the Early-Modern Electronic Texts project.


"Full of All Knowledg": George Herbert's "Country Parson" and Early Modern Social Discourse, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Contributor to books, including John Milton: Twentieth Century Perspectives, 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including George Herbert Journal and Renaissance and Reformation.


Ronald W. Cooley is a professor of English at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. He specializes in seventeenth-century literature, although he has written about more-modern authors, such as Thomas Pynchon. As of 2008, he was studying the premodern literature of Kent, England. Cooley has contributed articles to such periodicals as the George Herbert Journal and Renaissance and Reformation, and he has also contributed to the 2002 book John Milton: Twentieth Century Perspectives. His first full-length publication, however, was not released until 2004. That publication, "Full of All Knowledg": George Herbert's "Country Parson" and Early Modern Social Discourse, aligns with Cooley's main area of expertise. According to a profile of Cooley, posted on the University of Saskatchewan Web site, the book "draws on ecclesiastical, economic and social history."

The main title of the book, "Full of All Knowledg," is a quote taken from George Herbert. The book is a literary and historical exploration of Herbert's most often misunderstood work, commonly known as The Country Parson. Herbert, who lived from 1593 to 1633, was a Welsh clergyman, poet, and writer. His The Country Parson is predominantly viewed as a guide for young clergy as they navigate the demands and duties of day-to-day parish life. Cooley's "Full of All Knowledg" explores this fact and the religious theories and ideas that Herbert was likely influenced by in his composition of The Country Parson.

Critiques of Cooley's "Full of All Knowledg" were largely positive, although somewhat mixed. The most prevalent criticism was that Cooley faced a considerable challenge in attempting to analyze The Country Parson with modern literary and historical criticism. Nevertheless, the book was viewed as a singular addition to Herbert scholarship. For instance, Gayle Gaskill, reviewing the book in the Renaissance Quarterly, noted that Cooley presents a "sympathetic, New Historicist reading" of Herbert's work, adding that Cooley's approach results in "original and instructive insights derived from his impressive erudition." Gaskill went on to note that "Cooley demonstrates that Herbert idealizes the parson in order to set a high social and moral standard," which was perhaps one of Herbert's motivations in composing The Country Parson. Indeed, Gaskill reported that "Cooley convincingly represents Herbert's complementary efforts to reconcile differences" in religious theory, such as the "Puritan and Laudian" schools of thought. Overall, Gaskill concluded that "like his subject, Cooley's style is witty, learned, grave, and insightful." She then called the book "a rewarding work."

Other critics were similarly laudatory in their assessments. Robert Landrum, writing in Church History, examined Cooley's conclusions regarding Herbert and The Country Parson, expounding on them in detail. "In Cooley's treatment," Landrum commented, "it becomes clear that The Country Parson is far more than a rector's how-to manual." Indeed, Landrum claimed that "Cooley deftly parses the competing claims of tradition and innovation," balancing over 400 years of the changing criticism surrounding Herbert's master work. Landrum then went on to call this feat an "artful compromise, a delicate balancing act between the historians, who would claim authority over the past as their exclusive parish, and the upstart elite of historicist literary critics, who would bring modern theoretical techniques to bear in the interpretation of traditional texts."

Although Richard Todd, reviewing Cooley's "Full of All Knowledg" in the Modern Language Review, was perhaps the least complimentary of all of the critics who addressed the work, Todd did acknowledge the book's overall value. "This would appear to be the first scholarly monograph entirely devoted to George Herbert's attractive, but deceptively limpid, treatise," Todd observed. Todd additionally felt that in attempting to grapple with the various historical views of Herbert and his work, "it is not easy to distil" Cooley's views "from them." Despite this minor critique, Todd acknowledged that "Cooley offers four areas for discussion: ‘worship, social regulation, agricultural technology and land use, and domestic relations,’" and went on to state that this approach results in a "genuinely interesting and detailed micro-history" of the time and context in which The Country Parson was composed.

P.G. Stanwood, examining "Full of All Knowledg" in the Anglican Theological Review, took a more expansive stance than Todd in his assessments. Indeed, Stanwood acknowledged the book's value in adding to the dearth of literary criticism on The Country Parson. According to Stanwood, "Cooley's aim is to describe the inherent tensions in the social and political forces and in the literary (or quasi-literary) forms of the earlier seventeenth century." Stanwood observed that this holds true "particularly as they are revealed through a careful reading of Herbert's little manual." Indeed, Stanwood felt that "Full of All Knowledg" is "a thoughtful book, of special interest to literary and cultural historians." Given this, Stanwood asserted that "students of George Herbert must now look again at The Country Parson."



Anglican Theological Review, summer, 2005, P.G. Stanwood, review of "Full of All Knowledg": George Herbert's "Country Parson" and Early Modern Social Discourse, pp. 493-496.

Canadian Journal of History, August 1, 2005, Eric Josef Carlson, review of "Full of All Knowledg," p. 316.

Church History, March 1, 2006, Robert Landrum, review of "Full of All Knowledg," p. 197.

Isis, December 1, 2006, Eric H. Ash, review of "Full of All Knowledg," p. 748.

Modern Language Review, April 1, 2006, Richard Todd, review of "Full of All Knowledg," p. 519.

Renaissance Quarterly, March 22, 2005, Gayle Gaskill, review of "Full of All Knowledg," p. 351.

Sixteenth Century Journal, December 22, 2005, Laura Feitzinger Brown, review of "Full of All Knowledg," p. 1235.


University of Saskatchewan Web site, (May 20, 2008), author profile.

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