In The Aesthetics of Service in Early Modern England, Elizabeth Rivlin explores the ways in which servant-master relationships reshaped literature. The early modern servant is enjoined to obey his or her master out of dutiful love, but the servant's duty actually amounts to standing in for the master, a move that opens the possibility of becoming master. Rivlin shows that service is fundamentally a representational practice, in which the servant who acts for a master merges with the servant who acts as a master.
Rivlin argues that in the early modern period, servants found new positions as subjects and authors found new forms of literature. Representations of servants and masters became a site of contact between pressing material concerns and evolving aesthetic ones. Offering readings of dramas by Shakespeare, Jonson, and Thomas Dekker and prose fictions by Thomas Deloney and Thomas Nashe, Rivlin suggests that these authors discovered their own exciting and unstable projects in the servants they created.
Tattoos and graffiti immediately bring to mind contemporary urban life and its inhabitants. But in fact, both practices date back much further than is generally thought—even by scholars. Drawing on a previously unavailable archive, Juliet Fleming reveals the unknown and disregarded literary arts of sixteenth century England.
In Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England, Fleming argues that our modern assumptions of what constitutes written expression have limited our access to and understanding of early modern history and writing. Fleming combines detailed historical scholarship with intellectual daring in a work that describes how writing practices have not been limited to the boundaries of the page; instead they have included body surfaces, ceramics, ceilings, walls, and windows.
Moving beyond what has been preserved in print and manuscript, this book claims the whitewashed wall as the primary textual canvas of the early modern English, explores the tattooing practices of sixteenth-century Europeans, and uncovers the poetics of ceramic cookware. Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England will provide a startling new perspective for scholars of early modern literature and cultural history.
In romances—Renaissance England’s version of the fantasy novel—characters often discover books that turn out to be magical or prophetic, and to offer insights into their readers’ selves. The Immaterial Book examines scenes of reading in important romance texts across genres: Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and The Tempest, Wroth’s Urania, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. It offers a response to “material book studies” by calling for a new focus on imaginary or “immaterial” books and argues that early modern romance authors, rather than replicating contemporary reading practices within their texts, are reviving ancient and medieval ideas of the book as a conceptual framework, which they use to investigate urgent, new ideas about the self and the self-conscious mind.
The first scholar to investigate the subject of women’s anger in early modern England, Gwynne Kennedy analyzes portrayals of and attitudes toward women’s anger in printed texts by or purporting to be written by women during the period.
Kennedy draws from recent critical work on emotions by historians, literary scholars, philosophers, and psychologists as well as comparative studies of the emotions by cultural anthropologists. Kennedy also examines a number of male-authored works, including sermons, conduct literature, philosophy, rhetoric, and medicine. The focus of her work, however, is on representations of women’s anger in printed works signed with women’s names in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. She addresses the ways these writings conform to, conflict with, or appear to reconfigure prevailing beliefs about women’s anger.
Kennedy looks at such literary texts as Mary Wroth’s romance, The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, the first fiction by an English woman; Elizabeth Cary’s play, The Tragedy of Mariam, the earliest extant play in English by a woman; and Aemilia Lanyer’s verse collection, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. She also discusses religious writings by Protestant martyr Anne Askew and Elizabeth Cary’s history of Edward II. Kennedy considers as well defenses of women’s nature authored by women (Rachel Speght and Aemilia Lanyer) or published under female pseudonyms (“Jane Anger,” “Ester Sowernam,” and “Constantia Munda”).
Kennedy demonstrates the importance of class and race as factors affecting anger’s legitimacy and its forms of expression. She shows how early modern assumptions about women’s anger can help to create or exaggerate other differences among women. Her close scrutiny of anger against female inferiority emphasizes the crucial role of emotions in the construction of self-worth and identity.
In seventeenth-century England, intellectuals of all kinds discovered their idealized self-image in the Adam who investigated, named, and commanded the creatures. Reinvented as the agent of innocent curiosity, Adam was central to the project of redefining contemplation as a productive and public labor. It was by identifying with creation’s original sovereign, Joanna Picciotto argues, that early modern scientists, poets, and pamphleteers claimed authority as both workers and “public persons.”
Tracking an ethos of imitatio Adami across a wide range of disciplines and devotions, Picciotto reveals how practical efforts to restore paradise generated the modern concept of objectivity and a novel understanding of the author as an agent of estranged perception. Finally, she shows how the effort to restore Adam as a working collective transformed the corpus mysticum into a public. Offering new readings of key texts by writers such as Robert Hooke, John Locke, Andrew Marvell, Joseph Addison, and most of all John Milton, Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England advances a new account of the relationship between Protestantism, experimental science, the public sphere, and intellectual labor itself.
In Jennifer Summit’s account, libraries are more than inert storehouses of written tradition; they are volatile spaces that actively shape the meanings and uses of books, reading, and the past. Considering the two-hundred-year period between 1431, which saw the foundation of Duke Humfrey’s famous library, and 1631, when the great antiquarian Sir Robert Cotton died, Memory’s Library revises the history of the modern library by focusing on its origins in medieval and early modern England.
Summit argues that the medieval sources that survive in English collections are the product of a Reformation and post-Reformation struggle to redefine the past by redefining the cultural place, function, and identity of libraries. By establishing the intellectual dynamism of English libraries during this crucial period of their development, Memory’s Library demonstrates how much current discussions about the future of libraries can gain by reexamining their past.
The theater of early modern England was a disastrous affair. The scant record of its performance demonstrates as much, for what we tend to remember today of the Shakespearean stage and its history are landmark moments of dissolution: the burning down of the Globe, the forced closure of playhouses during outbreaks of the plague, and the abolition of the theater by its Cromwellian opponents.
Persecution, Plague, and Fire is a study of these catastrophes and the theory of performance they convey. Ellen MacKay argues that the various disasters that afflicted the English theater during its golden age were no accident but the promised end of a practice built on disappearance and erasure—a kind of fatal performance that left nothing behind but its self-effacing poetics. Bringing together dramatic theory, performance studies, and theatrical, religious, and cultural history, MacKay reveals the period’s radical take on the history and the future of the stage to show just how critical the relation was between early modern English theater and its public.
During the seventeenth century, England was beset by three epidemics of the bubonic plague, each outbreak claiming between a quarter and a third of the population of London and other urban centers. Surveying a wide range of responses to these epidemics—sermons, medical tracts, pious exhortations, satirical pamphlets, and political commentary—Plague Writing in Early Modern England brings to life the many and complex ways Londoners made sense of such unspeakable devastation.
Ernest B. Gilman argues that the plague writing of the period attempted unsuccessfully to rationalize the catastrophic and that its failure to account for the plague as an instrument of divine justice fundamentally threatened the core of Christian belief. Gilman also trains his critical eye on the works of Jonson, Donne, Pepys, and Defoe, which, he posits, can be more fully understood when put into the context of this century-long project to “write out” the plague. Ultimately, Plague Writing in Early Modern England is more than a compendium of artifacts of a bygone era; it holds up a distant mirror to reflect our own condition in the age of AIDS, super viruses, multidrug resistant tuberculosis, and the hovering threat of a global flu pandemic.
What is sex exactly? Does everyone agree on a definition? And does that definition hold when considering literary production in other times and places? Sex before Sex makes clear that we cannot simply transfer our contemporary notions of what constitutes a sex act into the past and expect them to be true for the people who were then reading literature and watching plays. The contributors confront how our current critical assumptions about definitions of sex restrict our understanding of representations of sexuality in early modern England.
Drawing attention to overlooked forms of sexual activity in early modern culture, from anilingus and interspecies sex to “chin-chucking” and convivial drinking, Sex before Sex offers a multifaceted view of what sex looked like before the term entered history. Through incisive interpretations of a wide range of literary texts, including Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, Paradise Lost, the figure of Lucretia, and pornographic poetry, this collection queries what might constitute sex in the absence of a widely accepted definition and how a historicized concept of sex affects the kinds of arguments that can be made about early modern sexualities.
Contributors: Holly Dugan, George Washington U; Will Fisher, CUNY–Lehman College; Stephen Guy-Bray, U of British Columbia; Melissa J. Jones, Eastern Michigan U; Thomas H. Luxon, Dartmouth College; Nicholas F. Radel, Furman U; Kathryn Schwarz, Vanderbilt U; Christine Varnado, U of Buffalo–SUNY.
Migrants made up a growing class of workers in late sixteenth- and seventeenth- century England. In fact, by 1650, half of England’s rural population consisted of homeless and itinerant laborers. Unsettled is an ambitious attempt to reconstruct the everyday lives of these dispossessed people. Patricia Fumerton offers an expansive portrait of unsettledness in early modern England that includes the homeless and housed alike.
Fumerton begins by building on recent studies of vagrancy, poverty, and servants, placing all in the light of a new domestic economy of mobility. She then looks at representations of the vagrant in a variety of pamphlets and literature of the period. Since seamen were a particularly large and prominent class of mobile wage-laborers in the seventeenth century, Fumerton turns to seamen generally and to an individual poor seaman as a case study of the unsettled subject: Edward Barlow (b. 1642) provides a rare opportunity to see how the laboring poor fashioned themselves, for he authored a journal of over 225,000 words and 147 pages of drawings. Barlow’s journal, studied extensively here for the first time, vividly charts what he himself termed his “unsettled mind” and the perpetual anxieties of England’s working and wayfaring poor. Ultimately, Fumerton explores representations of seamen as unsettled in the broadside ballads of Barlow’s time.
Women as Translators in Early Modern England offers a feminist theory of translation that considers both the practice and representation of translation in works penned by early modern women. It argues for the importance of such a theory in changing how we value women’s work. Because of England’s formal split from the Catholic Church and the concomitant elevation of the written vernacular, the early modern period presents a rich case study for such a theory. This era witnessed not only a keen interest in reviving the literary glories of the past, but also a growing commitment to humanist education, increasing literacy rates among women and laypeople, and emerging articulations of national sentiment. Moreover, the period saw a shift in views of authorship, in what it might mean for individuals to seek fame or profit through writing. Until relatively recently in early modern scholarship, women were understood as excluded from achieving authorial status for a number of reasons—their limited education, the belief that public writing was particularly scandalous for women, and the implicit rule that they should adhere to the holy trinity of “chastity, silence, and obedience.”
While this view has changed significantly, women writers are still understood, however grudgingly, as marginal to the literary culture of the time. Fewer women than men wrote, they wrote less, and their “choice” of genres seems somewhat impoverished; add to this the debate over translation as a potential vehicle of literary expression and we can see why early modern women’s writings are still undervalued. This book looks at how female translators represent themselves and their work, revealing a general pattern in which translation reflects the limitations women faced as writers while simultaneously giving them the opportunity to transcend these limitations. Indeed, translation gave women the chance to assume an authorial role, a role that by legal and cultural standards should have been denied to them, a role that gave them ownership of their words and the chance to achieve profit, fame, status and influence.
Published by University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
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