Formal matters

Reading the materials of English Renaissance literature

Edited by Allison Deutermann and Andras Kisery

Formal matters


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8553-6
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £90.00
  • Published Date: November 2013
  • BIC Category: The arts / History of art & design styles: c 1400 to c 1600, Early Modern Literature, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Literature, Literary studies: general, Literary studies: c 1400 to c 1600, ART / History / Renaissance, LITERARY CRITICISM / Renaissance


How do the formal properties of early modern texts, together with the materials that envelop and shape them, relate to the cultural, political, and social world of their production? Formal matters: Reading the materials of English Renaissance literature answers this question by linking formalist analysis with the insights of book history. It thus represents the new English Renaissance literary historiography tying literary composition to the materials and material practices of writing.

The book combines studies of familiar and lesser known texts, from the poems and plays of Shakespeare to jests and printed commonplace books. Its ten studies make important, original contributions to research on the genres of early modern literature, focusing on the involvement of literary forms in the scribal and print cultures of compilation, continuation, translation, and correspondence, as well as in matters of political republicanism and popular piety, among others. Taken together, the collection's essays exemplify how an attention to form and matter can historicise writing without abandoning a literary focus.


'Above all what emerges from this fascinating collection of essays is the importance of material approaches to literary and nonliterary texts in dialogue with other modes of reading. As such, meaning is collaborative, constructed by diverse agents, including but not limited to authors, compilers, scribes, printers, stationers, and readers, and generated by physical and visual as well as textual forms such as script, typeface, page layout, paper, and size - in other words, all the various material extratextual features that communicated significant meaning to early modern writers and readers.'
James Daybell, University of Plymouth, Renaissance Quarterly 69.4 (Winter 2016)


Introduction: Allison Deutermann and András Kiséry
I. Forming Literature
1. The first English printed commonplace books and the rise of the common reader - Heather James
2. Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously: Ben Jonson, Robert Chester, and the Vatum Chorus of Love's Martyr - Matthew Zarnowiecki
3. 'Divines into dry Vines': forms of jesting in Renaissance England - Adam Smyth
4. Afterworlds: Thomas Middleton, the book, and the genre of continuation - Jeffrey Todd Knight
II. Translations
5. Greek playbooks and dramatic forms in early modern England - Tanya Pollard
6. Book, list, word: forms of translation in the work of Richard Hakluyt - Henry S. Turner
III. The matters of writing
7. The forms of news from France in Shakespeare's Henry VI, part three - Alan Stewart
8. Writings and the problem of satisfaction in Michaelmas Term - Amanda Bailey
9. Saving souls or selling (virtual) godliness? The 'penny godlinesses' of John Andrewes and the problem of 'popular puritanism' in early Stuart England - Peter Lake
10. How to construct a poem: Descartes, Sidney - Shankar Raman
11. Afterword - David Scott Kastan


Allison K. Deutermann is Assistant Professor of English at Baruch College, City University of New York
András Kiséry is Assistant Professor of English at The City College of New York, City University of New York

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