Category Archives: Literary Studies

The Elizabethan Top Ten – a rigorous, entertaining and provocative set of studies in the print culture of a defining era

‘The Elizabethan Top Ten is a rigorous, entertaining and provocative set of studies in the print culture of a defining era. Given the number of avenues it opens up, and the new lights it throws upon an apparently familiar scene, Smith and Kesson’s wish that it will prompt more debate seems certain to be amply fulfilled.’    Quite Irregular Blog

‘… The Elizabethan Top Ten offers more than ten compelling reasons for deserving popularity among humanities scholars and students.’   Journal of British Studies

The Elizabethan Top TenEngaging with histories of the book and of reading, as well as with studies of material culture, The Elizabethan Top Ten explores ‘popularity’ in early modern English writings.

Is ‘popular’ best described as a theoretical or an empirical category in this period?

How can we account for the gap between modern canonicity and early modern print popularity?

How might we weight the evidence of popularity from citations, serial editions, print runs, reworkings, or extant copies?

Is something that sells a lot always popular, even where the readership for print is only a small proportion of the population, or does popular need to carry something of its etymological sense of the public, the people?

Four initial chapters sketch out the conceptual and evidential issues, while the second part of the book consists of ten short chapters-a ‘hit parade’- in which eminent scholars take a genre or a single exemplar – play, romance, sermon, or almanac, among other categories-as a means to articulate more general issues. Throughout, the aim is to unpack and interrogate assumptions about the popular, and to decentre canonical narratives about, for example, the sermons of Donne or Andrewes over Smith, or the plays of Shakespeare over Mucedorus.

Revisiting Elizabethan literary culture through the lenses of popularity, this collection allows us to view the subject from an unfamiliar angle-in which almanacs are more popular than sonnets and proclamations more numerous than plays, and in which authors familiar to us are displaced by names now often forgotten.

Below is an edited extract from Andy Kesson and Emma Smith’s introduction to the The Elizabethan Top Ten. You can read the full introduction on the Ashgate website.

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After some months dominated by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The New York Times Book Review announced a change in policy for its famous book bestseller listings. Their new list of ‘trade paperback fiction … gives more emphasis to the literary novels and short-story collections reviewed so often in our pages’. The aim is clear: to exclude some – in fact, the very top – bestsellers from the bestseller list in order to make space for books whose value was signalled more by their presence in the paper’s review pages than by their sales figures alone. Six months later the paper attempted again to explain the rationale for its decision, but served to further confuse the distinction between ‘trade’ and its tautological formula of ‘mass-market’ bestsellers. In March 2008 Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement was in both charts, ranked 8th and 17th, respectively. ‘You may still wonder’, the paper wrote, ‘why we decided to separate the mass-market and trade best-seller lists. The reason is that mass-market books – no surprise – tend to sell in larger numbers than trade. A list based on the number of copies a paperback sells will usually be dominated by mass-market’.

One might expect that a list headed ‘bestsellers’ would indeed register those books that sold the highest number of copies, but here this is in conflict with a different measurement of value: trade books ‘are the novels that reading groups choose and college professors teach’. ‘Best-selling’ is here in an uneasy relationship with other, less quantifiable indices of value, or, to put it another way, the hyphenated term ‘best-selling’ is under some strain, as ‘best’ starts to serve less as an adjectival modifier to ‘selling’ and more its ideological opposite. Oscar Wilde’s aperçu in his ‘Lecture to Art Students’ seems relevant here: ‘popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong’.

This uncomfortable compromise between quantitative and qualitative indicators of value is not confined to newspaper bestsellers. Annual lists revealing which authors are most borrowed from UK public libraries, or the metrics by which Top Ten music charts are calculated have been subject to similar caveats and recalibrations, and indeed the BBC felt itself forced to censor its weekly chart show in the week of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in 2013. For various reasons, it seems that we want to elide quantitative and qualitative measures. True ‘bestsellers’ are just slightly regrettable, an attitude perhaps still bearing the residual anxiety of what J.W. Saunders influentially dubbed ‘the stigma of print’. Popularity is itself suspect. We want the best-seller list to be the same as that list authorized by reading groups and college professors, and when it isn’t, we tweak the arrangement to get a more satisfactory result. Saunders identified the stigma of print as a specifically Tudor problem. If methodological and ideological questions dog contemporary best-seller lists, where publication and sales data are relatively robust, they are multiplied when turning to the question of print popularity in the Elizabethan period.

This book attempts to raise, rather than elide, the practical and methodological challenges of defining print popularity, and, in particular, the interpretative difficulties for literary critics and cultural historians when our sense of what ought to have been a bestseller – because it is what college professors now teach – turns out not to have been. Our title, ‘The Elizabethan Top Ten’, is self-consciously anachronistic. We have not, for reasons discussed below, tried to tabulate a ‘Top Ten’ on print editions alone (although if we had, the Book of Common Prayer, discussed in Brian Cummings’s chapter, and Sternhold and Hopkins’s psalm translations, discussed in Beth Quitslund’s, would have been there). Rather, we have invited contributors to our Top Ten to either propose a particular popularity case study within a genre – sermons or plays, for instance – or survey a particular aspect of the print market, with an eye to how their focus might form a local contribution to broader issues about writing, publishing and consuming print in the early modern period.

We actively encourage disagreements about what has been left out. We’d be delighted, for instance, if someone angrily proposed another sermon in place of The Trumpet of the Soule: for all the recent revival in sermon studies in the past decade, no sustained ‘top ten’–type argument has broken out. We haven’t got a section on ballads, for instance, despite Adam Fox’s startling estimate that ‘three or four million broadside ballads were printed in the second half of the sixteenth century alone’.

We might have included something else on the range of ephemeral literature, including chapbooks, playbills and forms: Juliet Fleming uncovers early wallpaper as an unexpected representative of this wide and diverse category. We chose to take Shakespeare as our example of literary canonization because the stakes are so high for our own contemporary disciplinary practice: the case of John Lyly, whose 11 print works went through at least 46 editions in 60 years, might have given a different shape to the story.

Above all, our aim has been to stimulate debate, including disagreement. Our contributors seek to further a dialogue about notions of popularity and about the relative roles of quantitative and qualitative methodologies for judging and interrogating popularity in the past. This volume brings together book history and literary criticism not merely to nominate or enumerate bestsellers, nor even to problematize them, but rather to try to understand their hold on the market, and with that, the gap between our own literary assessments and those of the past we seek to understand.

For some critics, statistics suggest that in the Elizabethan period the vast majority of the people were illiterate, and popularity and print are therefore mutually exclusive. Tessa Watt sensibly suggests that ‘in a partially literate society, the most influential media were those which combined print with non-literate forms’, such as musical ballads, illustrated books and books for devotion. But we should still ask whether, in an era before mass literacy, any printed text could truly be described as ‘popular’. Joad Raymond’s intervention is helpful: ‘print culture can be described as “popular” not because it is the voice of the people, nor necessarily because it was widely read among the people or reflected their views, but because the people were understood to be involved in the publicity dynamic, the dynamic by which print came to play a part in public life and the political process’.

This book explores the ways print, in its content, appearance or placement, addresses itself to and is constructed by this sense of the public. Like the contributors to Raymond’s recent Oxford History of Popular Print Culture (2011), the writers in The Elizabethan Top Ten contribute to a reassessment of the role of print in studies of the popular.

Most classic accounts of popular culture disregard print, following Peter Burke’s monumental Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, first published in 1978, and prefer the reconstruction of the non-commercial practices of a communal, oral folk culture over the commodified entertainment of a learned elite.

But the public for print needs to be seen as extending beyond those who actually bought it and into a more heterogeneous, increasingly print-aware culture. Estimates of the number of print ballads in circulation in the Elizabethan period reach into the millions; religious texts like the ABC and Catechism went into scores, perhaps hundreds of editions; almanacs were printed in the hundreds of thousands.

And although press run for particular print artefacts is not the only indicator of ‘popularity’, it does suggest which works were already, or anticipated to be, commercially successful and which had relatively widespread penetration. We can see that numbers here vary widely, but even at the upper end of the range they remain small, particularly when set against, for example, the capacities of the theatres or the expected crowd at a sermon; on the other hand, we do not know how many people might encounter any one copy of a book. In their contributions to the current volume, Helen Smith cites Gabriel Harvey’s habit of signing his books ‘et amicorum’ and Abigail Shinn discusses Harvey swapping books with Spenser. The study of popularity needs to incorporate a study of human networks and the reception and ongoing use of books, as well as their publication and distribution.

The current book engages with these issues in two sections, one on methodology and the other the Top Ten itself. The first four chapters sketch out the conceptual and evidential issues associated with popularity. Thus Alan Farmer and Zachary Lesser open our discussion by investigating and interrogating how the English Short Title Catalogue represents popularity within the early modern book trade. They provide new categories for a large-scale analysis of the print market, drawing together theoretical, evidentiary and bibliographic themes. Lucy Munro demonstrates how Elizabethan popularity was driven by books first printed before Elizabeth’s reign, so that age, paradoxically, offered new possibilities to a print market often criticized for its fixation on newness and novelty. Helen Smith abandons financial concerns entirely, advocating the early modern book as an object of friendship, conviviality and advice. In the final methodological essay, Neil Rhodes revisits Shakespeare’s writing career to show how ‘the best-selling English author of all time’ negotiated ambitions for exclusivity whilst responding to unanticipated levels of popularity amongst his readers. These four chapters offer sustained, different perspectives from which to rethink approaches to popularity.

The second section of the book is the Top Ten: ten short chapters presenting for the case of a particular genre as popular. Our contributors unpack and interrogate assumptions about the popular, decentre narratives about the canon and rediscover an early modern world which looks both oblique and new. We move from self-writing in almanacs to censored script behind wallpaper, international news to Spenser poems, domestic books to public sermons, psalm books to Munday’s serialized stories and from The Book of Common Prayer to polar bears at the Stuart court.

This Top Ten is not intended to be the final word on the most popular kinds of books available to early modern readers. Rather, we offer here a range of current thinking about early modern popularity, bringing together material textual criticism, the history of the book, conceptual frameworks, empirical data and evidence of reading practices, combining book history and literary studies in order to begin a new conversation about the nature of popularity. This is, above all, a book about people – people who produce, consume and love books and the content of books – and seeks to restore a sense of the vitality and radical implications of the Elizabethan ‘Pop-holy’ generation.

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More information about The Elizabethan Top Ten

List of contributors to the book:

Andy Kesson; Emma Smith; Alan B. Farmer; Zachary Lesser; Lucy Munro; Helen Smith; Neil Rhodes; Adam Smyth; Brian Cummings; S.K. Barker; Abigail Shinn; Catherine Richardson; Juliet Fleming; Lori Anne Ferrell; Beth Quitslund; Louise Wilson; Peter Kirwan.

‘The Disguised Ruler in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries’ Short Listed for the Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award

Posted by Ally Berthiaume and Hattie Wilson

Congratulations to Ashgate author, Kevin A Quarmby for being awarded runner-up for the 2014 Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award for his monograph, The Disguised Ruler in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries. This award, only given every other year, goes to a first monograph published in the last two years that has made a significant contribution to Shakespeare scholarship. The award was judged by a panel of prestigious academics comprising: Patrick Spottiswoode, Director Globe Education (Chair); Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Globe Education); Professor David Lindley (University of Leeds); Professor Gordon McMullan, (King’s College London); Professor Laurie Maguire (University of Oxford); and Dr Abigail Rokison (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, and Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award winner in 2012).

Now among those leaving their footprint in continuing Shakespeare scholarship is Ashgate’s very own, Kevin A Quarmby. Quarmby is Assistant Professor of English at Oxford College of Emory University, Atlanta, and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Halle Institute for Global Learning. He is editing Henry VI Part 1 for Internet Shakespeare Editions and also holds the role of Editor for their theatre review journal, ISEC. In addition to his editorial accomplishments, Quarmby has published extensively in a variety of academic journals (Shakespeare, Shakespeare Bulletin, and Cahiers Elizabethain, to name a few). It is a considerable success then to have his first monograph attain short list status for this distinguished award.

We congratulate him on this most recent achievement and are proud to have him among our canon of authors.

The Disguised Ruler in ShakespeareThe Disguised Ruler in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries:

Measure for Measure, Malcontent and other disguised ruler plays are typically interpreted as synchronic political commentaries about King James. Quarmby, by contrast, traces the disguised ruler’s medieval origins and marks its presence on the Elizabethan stage. Influenced by European tragicomedy, the motif had by Jacobean times transformed romantic images of royal disguise into more sinister instances of politicized voyeurism. Market forces in London’s vibrant repertory system fuelled this dramatic evolution.

‘This excellent book fills a gap in the fields of English literature and history, and destabilizes some idée fixes of the Shakespeare field – for instance, the idea, often promulgated, that the Friar in Measure for Measure is a reflection of James I. Written with Quarmby’s typical charm and clarity, this important book is so cogent and accessible that scholars from undergraduates to professors will profit from it.’    Tiffany Stern, Professor of Early Modern Drama, University College, Oxford, UK

‘Kevin A. Quarmby’s The Disguised Ruler in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries offers a convincing rejoinder to a new historicist orthodoxy: that the beginning of James I’s reign witnessed the emergence and brief flowering of a distinctly Jacobean subgenre, the disguised ruler play.’    Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

‘…Quarmby’s monograph is an important contribution to theatre performance criticism which will hopefully lead to a reappreciation of the disguised ruler motif among Renaissance scholars.’    Shakespeare Jahrbuch

Once Upon an Arts Policy – Constance DeVereaux speaking at City University London

Constance DeVereaux, author of Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy, will be speaking at City University London, at 6.30 tonight 4th June. She will also be speaking at University College Dublin on the 6th of June at a public lecture entitled Excellence and Cultural Policy. The lecture in Dublin is an advance presentation for the UCD – IADT ‘Mapping an Altered landscape’ conference on Cultural Policy and Management in Ireland.

About the City University event:

Once Upon an Arts Policy

The use of narrative analysis in policy science gained popularity in the 1990s but has been largely rejected by mainstream policy researchers working in a positivist vein. Narrative methods have been criticized for lack of rigor, clear hypothesis testing, and for difficulties of replication and falsification. Despite traditional social science’s success in providing this rigor, its methods may come up short for use in cultural policy where analysts must account for the inherent messiness of culture. Drawing on her work with co-researcher Martin Griffin in their recent book Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy, Dr. Constance DeVereaux delineates a framework for use by cultural policy researchers with practical application to selected cultural policy issues. These include cultural citizenship and identity, cultural diplomacy, and the proliferation of formal cultural policy documents, which have been used-simultaneously-as articulations of value, as procedural documents, and (more recently) as branding and marketing tools. In so doing, this paper demonstrates the possibilities for application of narrative modes, tale types, and frameworks as a new set of tools for cultural policy analysts.

Narrative identity and the map of cultural policyAbout Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy:

‘DeVereaux and Griffin present a persuasive argument that cultural policy is located within a framework of different narratives that may be neither recognized nor understood. The book is a good “read;” full of fascinating stories and makes an important contribution to cultural policy studies particularly with the combining and interplay of the writers’ two disciplines.’   Jo Caust, University of Melbourne, Australia

‘Inspired by the pleasures of storytelling, the authors bring a fresh new approach to cultural policy inquiry, identifying narrative as an essential component of human thought and interaction. In an exciting manner they show the connections between narrative and identity, discovering new stories which reveal the impact of globalization and transnationalism within cultural policy discourse and practices. Advocating interpretive method in cultural policy analysis, the authors reveal the value of narrative in investigating and understanding contemporary cultural policy systems.’   Milena Dragicevic Šešic, University of Arts, Belgrade, Serbia

The story of arts and cultural policy in the twenty-first century is inherently of global concern no matter how local it seems. At the same time, questions of identity have in many ways become more challenging than before. Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy: Once Upon a Time in a Globalized World explores how and why stories and identities sometimes merge and often clash in an arena in which culture and policy may not be able to resolve every difficulty. DeVereaux and Griffin argue that the role of narrative is key to understanding these issues. They offer a wide-ranging history and justification for narrative frameworks as an approach to cultural policy and open up a wider field of discussion about the ways in which cultural politics and cultural identity are being deployed and interpreted in the present, with deep roots in the past. This timely book will be of great interest not just to students of narrative and students of arts and cultural policy, but also to administrators, policy theorists, and cultural management practitioners.

About the Authors:

Constance DeVereaux is Associate Professor in the LEAP Institute for the Arts at Colorado State University. She served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Arts/Cultural Policy and Arts/Cultural Management at universities in Finland, South Africa, and Romania and has worked with municipalities in developing policies for cultural development. She has published internationally on topics relating to cultural policy and the discourse of practice. She co-organized the international symposium series Cultural Management and the State of the Field and is editor of the publication series of the same title.

Martin Griffin is associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Among the topics that interest him are the role played by narrative in cross-cultural exchange, and the relationship between literary culture and diplomacy in American history. He is the author of Ashes of the Mind: War and Memory in Northern Literature, 1865-1900 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009) and is currently working on an edited collection of essays entitled American Political Fictions.

Claire Jowitt and John McAleer introduce their new book series Maritime Humanities 1400‒1800: Cultures of the Sea

‘… whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world .’ (Sir Walter Ralegh)

So wrote Ralegh, probably from his quarters in the Tower of London during his admittedly luxurious incarceration there after spectacularly falling out of royal favour (he was condemned for treason in 1603, but reprieved from execution and lived, legally dead, in the Bloody Tower for many years). From the Tower, Ralegh would have been able to see just how busy a thoroughfare the arterial river the Thames had become, with ships and boats great and small bringing an enormous and exciting variety of commodities from Africa to China, from the East to the West Indies, and, of course, from all across Europe, as well as exporting men and goods all over the world. Oceans had a lot to offer even to a disgraced courtier and adventurer: finally, in 1617, Ralegh was allowed to return to sea by James I to travel to Guiana to attempt to reestablish his own and English mining interests there after a gap of twenty years or so. Of course for Ralegh this time, unlike in his earlier career, the sea did not provide a route to preferment and riches: the voyage resulted in violent clashes with the Spanish in Guiana. He was accused of piracy by them, and the king had his previously commuted sentence enacted on 16th October 1618 in Old Palace Yard in the Palace of Westminster. But viewing oceans as spaces and places of opportunity, risk, and challenge is as true for scholars today as it was for sailors and merchants, monarchs and governments, and writers and artists, in the days of the sailing ship.

For Ralegh and his European contemporaries, wealth and power were found at sea. Or, more precisely, they were to be found in controlling the world’s oceans and their maritime routes. Overseas trade went hand in hand with the development of global empire in the Age of Sail, a period of history particularly marked by increased exploration, travel, and trade. But the early modern maritime world offered much else besides: it facilitated the movement of people and ideas as well as the violence and exploitation of encounter and, in so doing, it opened up a whole host of new cultural and artistic exchanges as well as material ones. Early modern oceans not only provided temperate climates, resources, and opportunities for commercial transactions, they also played a central role in cultural life. Early modern seascapes were cultural spaces and contact zones, where connections and circulations occurred outside established centres of control and the dictates of individual national histories. Likewise coastlines, rivers, and ports were all key sites for commercial and cultural exchange.

Fresh investigation of these processes, encounters, interactions, and their implications is needed. We are delighted to announce a new book series Maritime Humanities 1400‒1800: Cultures of the Sea, to be published by Ashgate. Our aim is to produce a series of books that explore the cultural meanings of the early modern ocean by scholars working across the full range of humanities subjects.

Maritime Humanities 1400‒1800: Cultures of the Sea welcomes books from historians, archaeologists, literary and language scholars, art historians, philosophers, and music scholars, and invites submissions that conceptually engage with issues of globalization, post-colonialism, eco-criticism, environmentalism, and the histories of science and technology. The series puts maritime humanities at the centre of a transnational historiographical scholarship that seeks to transform traditional land-based histories of states and nations by focusing on the cultural meanings of the early modern ocean.

It is a daunting but exciting task, and we will be helped in it by an international series advisory board that includes scholars at the forefront of interdisciplinary maritime studies: Mary Fuller, Fred Hocker, Steve Mentz, Sebastian Sobecki, David J. Starkey, and Philip Stern. The series will cover events in various oceans, several centuries of history, thousands of vessels, tens of thousands of voyages, and millions of people. But we believe that there are lots of scholars, at every stage of their careers, who are interested in putting the sea into perspective: if you are one of them, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Claire Jowitt & John McAleer, May 2014

For more information on how to submit a book proposal to the series, please contact Emily Yates, Commissioning Editor.

About the series editors:

Claire Jowitt John McAleer

Claire Jowitt is Professor of Renaissance English Literature, and John McAleer is Lecturer in History, both at the University of Southampton.

David E. Latané Wins Colby Book Prize for William Maginn and the British Press

Ashgate is proud to announce that David E. Latané, author of William Maginn and the British Press was a joint winner of the Robert and Vineta Colby Scholarly Book Prize 2013, awarded by The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals. The Colby book prize is “awarded to the scholarly books that most advance the understanding of the nineteenth-century British newspaper or periodical press.” As a winner of the prize, Professor Latané will be invited to speak at this year’s RSVP conference being held at the University of Delaware.

William Maginn and the British PressWilliam Maginn and the British Press examines the life and career of political journalist, editor, and writer, William Maginn. Following him from his early days in Ireland, to work in Paris and London, and finally to his decline and incarceration, this fastidious biography is essential reading for nineteenth-century scholars and historians of the book and periodical.

The Robert and Vineta Colby Scholarly Book Prize was endowed in 2006 in memory of Robert Colby by his wife, Vineta. In 2011, after Vineta also passed, the board voted to rename the prize in honor of both of them. Robert and Vineta were long-time members of RSVP and distinguished, contributing scholars to the study of Victorian periodicals. This is the third time in the prize’s history that an Ashgate author has won this award. In 2009 Catherine Waters won for her book, Commodity Culture in Dickens’s Household Words (Ashgate, 2008) and in 2008 Kathryn Ledbetter won for her book, Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals (Ashgate, 2007).

We are pleased to see another Ashgate author honored with this award and congratulate him on his success.

For information on other Ashgate prize winning titles, visit www.ashgate.com/prizewinners.

A guest post from Bret Rothstein, General Editor of Ashgate’s new series— Cultures of Play, 1300-1700

If we might put the letters but one way,

In the lean dearth of words, what could we say?

– John Donne

Johan Huizinga once suggested that play is older than culture – that it is in fact the source of culture. Taking that idea as its starting point, this series proposes to examine ludic cultures in Europe from the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Our goal in so doing is twofold. First, we aim to tap into a relatively new and important line of scholarly inquiry, one that has begun to concern itself not only with documenting examples of playfulness (to quote the call for proposals, “from backgammon and tops to Papal bulls and theological tractates”), but also with mapping the cultural contours that gave rise to such things.

The timing for such a series seems right: scholars have produced important articles on various objects (e.g., the Bargello Games Board) and ideas (the ethical or moral implications of chess), and some general studies of toys and the like are available. But we have yet to see focused, sustained consideration of the character and range of early modern playfulness as such, from its texts and its objects to its practices and value systems. This series is designed to promote that consideration by providing a venue for scholars from across a range of disciplines to engage in an in-depth dialogue concerning the history of play as a topic in its own right.

This brings me to our second aim, which is to interrogate the historical and intellectual implications of Huizinga’s statement. That is, we hope that this series will result not only in innovative historical research but also continued methodological inquiry concerning what exactly might constitute play in the first place. With that in mind, we welcome submissions from across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including childhood studies, gender studies, history, the history and philosophy of science, languages and literature, material culture studies, performance studies, philosophy, poetics, religious studies, and theater history, as well as the history of art and visual culture. As such a list might suggest, we conceive of play as a subtle and complex phenomenon that rewards interdisciplinary work particularly richly.

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Bret RothsteinBret Rothstein is a scholar of visual wit who teaches in the Department of the History of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington.

More information about Cultures of Play, 1300-1700

The Castle of Otranto is 250!

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Marketing Executive

The initial publication of The Castle of Otranto was in 1764, making the novel 250 this year. The Castle is considered to be one of the first Gothic novels and is a supernatural tale of melodramatic mystery and romance. Walpole’s novel inspired countless subsequent writers, including Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne Du Maurier.

Even Walpole’s Twickenham Neo-Gothic pile, Strawberry Hill, prompted a new fashion for Gothic architecture. The building itself is said to have influenced the novel, as Walpole envisaged a gigantic armoured fist on the staircase. Mary Shelley is said to have been galvanized to write her own Gothic narrative Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, after reading Walpole, further corroborating the importance of Walpole in the history of Gothicism.

Gothic Ashgate:

Also of Interest: