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Picture of Encountering Ephemera 1500-1800

Encountering Ephemera 1500-1800

Scholarship, Performance, Classroom

Editor(s): Joshua B. Fisher and Rebecca Steinberger

Book Description

This volume addresses two key questions: 1) How can ephemera be understood as a critical category of literary and historical inquiry? and 2) How can ephemera serve pedagogical purposes in the classroom? Each of the essays in Encountering Ephemera 1550-1800: Scholarship, Performance, Classroom addresses these questions by exploring a diverse range of materials as well as periods. The essays collectively work to define ephemera as a complex and multi-faceted critical category in terms of its literary, cultural, and historical significance. Each contributor works to complicate the traditional binary opposition between the ephemeral/transitory and the canonical/enduring, in part by recognizing how attending to the material processes of textual production, transmission, and dissemination highlights the potential instability and mutability of texts (and textual relationships), whether discussing broadside ballads or coterie poetry. By shifting the focus to the processes by which texts are constructed and construed, the prospect of recognizing any text (regardless of its canonical status) as a static and fixed entity becomes difficult and, in turn, the ephemeral qualities that define and constitute the text’s materiality come more sharply into focus. Along these lines, the “ephemeral spaces” across and between discourses – what might be called the “ephemera of cultural poetics” – play a key role in shaping literary texts. Thus, early modern and eighteenth century ephemera constitute both the material (texts not intended to last or designed for limited cultural life) and the process (fleeting and transitory aspects of cultural production). Whether discussing the circulation of cheap print, the performative traces of music and gesture in Shakespeare’s plays, or the diffuse cultural influences that both surround and pervade literary texts, attending to ephemeral matters underscores the dynamic unfixity of early modern and eighteenth century cultural practices.


ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-4180-1
ISBN-10: 1-4438-4180-3
Date of Publication: 01/12/2012
Pages / Size: 250 / A5
Price: £44.99


Joshua B. Fisher is an independent scholar. He has published on a wide range of topics, including early modern appropriations of broadside ballads, the domestic travel writing of John Taylor the Water-Poet, recent developments in the canon of early modern literature, and food and nation in Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays. He is currently working on a book about the development of familiar English space in the early modern period.

Rebecca Steinberger is Professor and Chair of the English Department at Misericordia University. In addition to Shakespeare and early modern cultural studies, her research interests include contemporary Irish drama, Gothic literature, and literary treatments of terrorism. She is the author of Shakespeare and Twentieth-Century Irish Drama: Conceptualizing Identity and Staging Boundaries (2008) and contributing editor of The Renaissance Literature Handbook (2009). Currently, she is working on a four-hundred-year literary history of terrorism written in and about London.