Shakespeare's writing practice : literary' Shakespeare and the work of form

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2011-05

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In its introduction and four chapters, this project demonstrates that Shakespeare responded to—and powerfully shaped—the early modern English literary marketplace. Against the longstanding critical limitation of the category “Literature” that restricts it to the printed book, this dissertation argues that the literary is not so much a quality of texts as a mode of exchange encompassing not merely printed books but many other forms of representation. Whether writing for the stage, the page, or both, Shakespeare borrowed from and influenced other writers, and it is these specifically formal transactions that make his works literary. Thus, we can understand Shakespeare’s literariness only by scrutinizing the formal features of his works and showing how they circulated in an economy of imaginative writing. Shakespeare self-consciously refashioned words, styles, metrical forms, and figures of speech even as he traded in them, quickly cornering the literary market between 1595 and 1600. Shakespeare’s practice as a writer thus preceded and made possible his reputation both in the theater and in print.

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