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'Paper-contestations' and Textual Communities in England, 1640-1675

'Paper-contestations' and Textual Communities in England, 1640-1675

Elizabeth Sauer
  • Book Info
    'Paper-contestations' and Textual Communities in England, 1640-1675
    Book Description:

    The mass production and dissemination of printed materials were unparalleled in England during the 1640s and 50s. While theatrical performance traditionally defined literary culture, print steadily gained ground, becoming more prevalent and enabling the formation of various networks of writers, readers, and consumers of books.

    In conjunction with an evolving print culture, seventeenth-century England experienced a rise of political instability and religious dissent, the closing of the theatres, and the emergence of a middle class. Elizabeth Sauer examines how this played out in the nation?s book and print industry with an emphasis on performative writings, their materiality, reception, and their extra-judicial function.'Paper-contestations' and Textual Communities in Englandchallenges traditional readings of literary history, offers new insights into drama and its transgression of boundaries, and proposes a fresh approach to the politics of consensus and contestation that animated seventeenth-century culture and that distinguishes current scholarly debates about this period.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7824-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Prologue Press Acts
    (pp. 3-19)

    The mass production and dissemination of printed materials was unparalleled in England during the 1640s and 1650s, thus providing literary scholars and historians with a rich terrain for research on writing and interpretive practices¹ and a unique opportunity to analyse the nation’s cultural and political identity. Dramatic, macrohistorical events, including the rise of political instability and religious dissent, the closing of the theatres, and the emergence of a middle class, led, in conjunction with an evolving print culture, to the outbreak of paper wars as well as to the development of various hermeneutic circles and public spheres. Building on scholarship...

  5. Chapter 1 ‘Reader, Here you’l plainly see Judgement Perverted’
    (pp. 20-34)

    Among the arenas in this book that serve as sites for political performance and interpretive practices are books and pamphlets, meeting houses, the streets and marketplace, the courtroom, and the scaffold. These forums become alternative theatres and centres of collective activity. The courtroom was a particularly important stage for the performances of ‘social dramas.’ The major role of the courts was to enforce consensus and maintain order through a system of communal discipline by publicly indicting and punishing those who violated the law. While staged executions presented the most dramatic demonstrations of the contact between the law and popular culture,...

  6. Chapter 2 The Trials of Strafford and Laud in England’s ‘Sad Theater’
    (pp. 35-56)

    The courtroom dramas examined in this chapter feature two royalist actors, Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, and William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, who encounter each other on the political stage (and scaffold) and on the page.¹ Like those discussed in chapter 1, these dramas of justice involve a host of other performers: writers, printers, and readers who arraign the royalists in print and set the stage for the great tragedy of Charles. In terms of the circumstances of the trials, the allegations faced by Strafford, Laud, and Charles, and Parliament’s unprecedented authority in arraigning the defendants, these cases differ from...

  7. Chapter 3 The ‘Stage-work’ of Charles I
    (pp. 57-76)

    A counterfeitMercurius Pragmaticus, which imitated the incisive rhetoric of Marchamont Nedham, appeared on the morning of 30 January 1649 to set the stage for the greatest of early modern English tragedies:

    ‘Yes, the feat is now done, and Law and Equity must both give way: the Trayterous Tragedians are upon theirExit, and poor King CHARLES at the Brinke of thePitt; ThePrologueis past, theProclamation made, His Sentence is given, and we daily expect the sadCatastrophie; and then behold! The Sceane ischang’d;

    Englandbut now a gloriousMonarchy

    Degraded to a baseDemocracy.


  8. Chapter 4 ‘Yet we may Print the Errors of the Age’: Tyranny on Trial
    (pp. 77-97)

    The theatre had traditionally served as a charged territory and as a site of affiliation and social formation.¹ Developing alongside theatre culture was an antitheatrical prejudice, which became the subject of papercontestations throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth and early seventeenth centuries, culminating in William Prynne’sHistoriomastix. Nevertheless, the concerns about the social and moral dangers posed by the theatres during the seventeenth century were resolved to some degree by the establishment of more private playhouses and the greater respectability attributed to play-going. Moreover, the possibility that the theatres might give way to reformed stages and stage productions was...

  9. Chapter 5 Trials of Authorship and Dramas of Dissent
    (pp. 98-124)

    The dramatic arraignment of parliamentarians and the Rump by the royalists discussed in the previous chapter extends to religious dissenters who, since the time of their emergence, were tried not only in the courtroom but also in print. By no means resigned to such a fate, seventeenthcentury radicals produced their own counterculture and communal identities through which they also parted company with the Rump. The communities they formed were partly textual in nature. Dissenters set considerable store in universal literacy as a means to popular emancipation, which their claims to spiritual and religious equality had justified. Elitist discourses, including that...

  10. Epilogue ‘Beyond the fifth Act’: Milton and Dryden on the Restoration Stage
    (pp. 125-142)

    In each of the five chapters of this book we have witnessed how the managers of the political stage and of the (ideological) power of representation are outmanoeuvred, if not outperformed, by writers, alternative dramatic productions, and by the ‘guiltles press’that ‘acts’ in the place of the theatre. In chapter 1, monopolizers are forced to share the stage with pro-parliamentary writers and printers who created a culture of debate, a court of public opinion, and ‘a state of intellectual free trade.’¹ In chapter 2, the tables are turned as the managers of Strafford’s trial fail to anticipate the royalist...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 143-168)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 169-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-200)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)