- Recent Studies in Tudor and Stuart Drama
My immediate predecessor, Jonathan Gil Harris, did such an admirable job of categorizing last year's publications that I wanted to follow his lead. Much of what I read this year, however, turned out to blur the categories. Books focusing on women are also studies of pedagogy, work, revenge, or theology, and, if there seem to be relatively few political readings, that is because they are often religious readings as well. One reason for this multiple focus is the increasing interest in (or a return to) language and the metaphors that bridge apparently disconnected subjects. That it is a deliberate choice of the authors, not just the result of my own mental muddle, is indicated by many subtitles of the "x, x, and x" variety.
I. Literary Criticism
Language, Rhetoric, and Cognition—
I return to Harris as a starting point, but this time to his Shakespeare and Literary Theory, which begins when the word "theory" began to be used in its current sense, roughly 1940, and ranges from formalism to rhizome and actor-network theory, engaging with each argument and helpfully following the discussion of each approach with the analysis of an essay that exemplifies it. The chapter transitions show how one approach takes on or merges with another (as when "Deleuze makes a guerilla raid on the citadel of [End Page 471] psychoanalysis" [p.72]), but the book is nevertheless clear about the content of each. For Harris, theory is not something imposed on Shakespeare; it is inherent in his work. Despite its complex subject matter, and frequently difficult arguments, the book is often funny (as in its opening discussion of Theoric the Bookish, a straw man conjured up by Iago). It should be widely used, and I have certainly found it helpful myself in trying to sort out the different approaches stated or implied by my 116 books.
The year's most exciting approach has been cognitive science, as applied, with equally interesting results, to the production, content, and reception of literature. Ian Lancashire's fascinating Forgetful Muses: Reading the Author in the Text looks at the first of these. Inspiration, he notes, is not visual but "auditory" (p. 34)—hearing voices, not seeing words. Authorship involves an initial unconscious experience of "the Muse" followed (sometimes instantly) by the author's own editorial role. Because the two are virtually inseparable (he gives his own Muse a voice in brief comments at the ends of chapters), Lancashire questions the assumption in "authorship studies" that only the unconscious process can be valid evidence. His studies of the writing process range from Chaucer to the multiauthored The Waste Land and the disruption of the Muse-Editor relationship in the last novels of Agatha Christie and Iris Murdoch. Shakespeare, Lancashire thinks, shows his awareness of the dual process in the words of Theseus, Holofernes, and some of the sonnets, but the Sir Thomas More manuscript seems to him evidence that the dramatist "let the first spontaneous production stand" (p. 18). I would argue that the false starts in Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labor's Lost are indications of an editor-Shakespeare correcting his Muse. But this is exciting subject matter.
Evelyn B. Tribble's Cognition in the Globe: Attention and Memory in Shakespeare's Theatre, is concerned with the concept of "distributed cognition" as a way of understanding how a company of actors shares the learning of complex intellectual and physical tasks. Different mnemonic devices encoded the play in the "plot," the actors' parts, and eventually the playtext. Building on Tiffany Stern's work on rehearsal, Tribble points in later plays to "a decreasing reliance on individual set speeches written to conform to the selective pressures of memory, and an increasing reliance on the dynamics of player interaction to prompt memory" (p. 85). The inexperienced boy actor is "protected"—appearing mainly in short two-person scenes where he can be cued by his master, and with dialogue indicating what he is expected to do. "Original practices" [End Page 472] companies cannot replicate this aspect of early modern theater; the gender of the actors matters less than their "embeddedness in a...