Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Rutgers Seminar in the History of the Book

The Program in Early Modern Studies at Rutgers

Invite you to a public lecture by:

Zachary Lesser (University of Pennsylvania)
"Literary Drama: William Shakespeare vs. The Anonymous Thomas Tomkis"

Thursday, March 27


Alexander Library, Pane Room

Over the past two decades, the question of the "literary" status of
drama has remained a central preoccupation of book-historical work in
early modern studies. Were the plays of William Shakespeare, Ben
Jonson, and their contemporaries considered merely subliterary "riff-
raff" as Thomas Bodley termed them in a letter advising his librarian
to exclude playbooks from the nascent Bodleian Library? Or did these
"plays" become "works" over the course of the early modern period? If
so, how was this transformation effected? In seeking to answer these
questions, we have left largely unexamined a logically prior
question: What exactly do we mean by "literary" drama, and how does
what we mean by that term relate to what early modern meant by it? To
begin to answer this question, this paper tells the story of two very
different publishers, Simon Waterson and his son John, who ran a shop
at the sign of the Crown in Paul's Churchyard for nearly seventy
years; and of two very different plays, Thomas Tomkis's Lingua (1607)
and Shakespeare and John Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen (1634),
that issued from the Crown bookshop. Examining the careers of these
two stationers, their playbooks, and especially the collapse of the
Waterson shop following the death of the father and the accession of
the son, will help to illuminate the fractured and often self-
contradictory nature of "the literary" in seventeenth-century England.


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