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  • Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England
  • Juanita Feros Ruys
Brooks, Douglas A. , ed., Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England. (Women and Gender in the Early Modern World), Aldershot, Ashgate, 2005; cloth; pp. xviii, 436; 51 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. £45.00; ISBN 075460425X.

This volume offers an insight into the transition from print to manuscript that transformed 'the discursive field of parenting', causing issues surrounding sexuality and gender to be expressed through anxieties over print and the book trade (p. 2). It is, however, subject to an unbalanced editorial rationale. Newly written innovative papers that cross-reference each other sit alongside isolated (and sometimes dated) reprints from earlier volumes, and even a chapter of a 1987 monograph which is inadequately melded into the current volume (its footnotes require the context of its original publication). The volume is divided into five sections, yet the fifth, which draws issues of printing and parenting into the present, while interesting, is misplaced in a volume with 'Early Modern England' in its title. There are sixteen chapters in this volume, but a more compact and cohesive volume could have been formed.

The 'Introduction' by Douglas A. Brooks outlines the relevant issues and literature; interestingly, in a series devoted to 'Women and Gender', the questions asked by the volume are focused on paternity (p. 18). Margreta de Grazia's chapter is an introduction to the early modern cultural resonances of printing, imprinting, and the generation of thought, word, and child and is frequently cited by other contributors. The Thompsons' chapter could have been omitted. Reprinted from 1987, and grounded in a 1970s academic dispute, it thinks through the technology of photocopying and tattooing. Its conclusion that 'we must see the printing metaphors as carrying a strong phallocentric bias' (p. 81) is both axiomatic and facile in view of other chapters.

The chapter by Katharine Eisaman Maus, first published in 1993, shows its age with references to Gilbert and Gubar, Cixous, Irigaray, and Clément. It remains nevertheless a useful study of female metaphors for male literary productivity. Lynne Dickson Bruckner's chapter is a brilliant study of Ben Jonson's crisis over and negotiation of the limits and longevity of a paternity read as both biological and textual. In this context, it seems unnecessary to include a reprint of a 1994 article by David Lee Miller which deals with similar subject matter, including the same key texts. Miller's is a good article and has been updated for this volume, at least as regards references, but it remains indebted to a psychoanalytic theory of trauma which adds little to its subject. [End Page 126]

The third section concerns the nascent English book trade. James A. Knapp's study of English woodcut illustrations considers the role these 'bastard' prints played instrumentally, if not aesthetically, in early modern English books and literary culture; it could, however, have been more engaged with the idea of generation / parenting. Maria Teresa Micaela Prendergast's chapter on the Nashe-Harvey controversy is one of the stand-outs of the volume. Bounding with enthusiasm over the relation between print and gender, parthenogenesis, sodomy, bastardy, excess, and excrescence, it examines the genre of the early modern abuse pamphlet. Michael Baird Saenger considers the role of paratext (front matter, errata) in early modern books in engaging readers not only as purchasers, but as benevolent 'parents' to the text within. Aaron W. Kitch's study of monstrous birth broadsides in early modern England considers how such texts use their subject matter to defend their own generic form as a new print medium, and argues that the attribution of birth monstrosities to rural couples points to anxieties over changing modes of economic production in early modern England. Biana F.C. Calabresi studies the use of red ink in early modern printing and its links with ideas of the feminine, dangerous circulation, excessive sexuality, and criminality. (A comparison with medievalist Kathleen Biddick's study 'Genders, Bodies, Borders' would be interesting).

Stephen Orgel's fascinating study of the marginal notes in Lady Anne Clifford's A Mirror for Magistrates shows how careful work on previously overlooked annotations can reveal not only how an...


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