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Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication Readings in the English Book Trade by Zachary (Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) Lesser

Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication Readings in the English Book Trade

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Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication Readings in the English Book Trade by Zachary (Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) Lesser

Shifting our focus from author to publisher and from first performance to first edition, Zachary Lesser offers a vantage point on the drama of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster, and their contemporaries. Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication reimagines the reception and meaning of plays by reading them through the eyes of their earliest publishers. Since success in the book trade required specialization, locating a play within its publisher's output allows us to see how the publisher read it and speculated that customers would read it. Their readings often differ radically from our own and so revise our views of the drama's engagement with early modern culture. By reading the 1633 Jew of Malta as a part of Nicholas Vavasour's Laudian specialty, for example, or the 1622 Othello in the context of Thomas Walkley's trade in parliamentary news, Lesser's study reveals the politics of these publications - for early modern readers and for us.


'Lesser's book maps out important directions for Renaissance scholarship.'
Forum for Modern English Studies

'Lesser's findings are of considerable importance to publishing history ... scholarly and thought-provoking ... Through his four absorbing case histories Zachary Lesser offers a study of the highest importance not only to bibliography and the history of the English book trade but also to many other areas of historical, literary, and cultural studies.'
Review of English Studies

'This is a book that offers direction for the study of early modern playbooks, a way of reading that will be responsive not only to bibliographical evidence but also to the earlier readings that it creates ...'
The Library

'Lesser's radical approach permits a radical clarity ... he casts a dazzling and original light onto the public moment of these plays'

Renaissance Quarterly

'... most interesting and useful ... especially interesting and original [of all those published during the year]. ... This is a genuinely original approach and yields important new insights into the reception of the plays he considers ... Lesser makes a convincing case that attention to publishers can yield important information about how plays were read.'
Studies in English Literature

'Lesser has written an excellent book ... a genuinely new contribution to the field ... It will be hard for anyone who has read his book to go on to read an early modern play without paying attention, in a way they are unlikely to have done before, to the identity of its publisher ...'
Renaissance and Reformation

'Lesser's claim is compelling, and he usefully isolates and understudied but undoubtedly important aspect of the drama ...'
Literature and History

About the Author

Zachary Lesser teaches Shakespeare and early modern drama at the University of Pennsylvania. He has published widely on Renaissance drama and the history of the book in journals such as ELH, English Literary Renaissance and Shakespeare Quarterly.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th August 2007


Zachary (Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) Lesser

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Cambridge University Press


260 pages


Literary studies: plays & playwrights
Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800



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