Category Archives: Literary Studies

Christopher Marlowe at 450

This is a guest post by Sara Munson Deats

christopher marlowe at 450As the baptism date, if not birthday, of internationally renowned English playwright, poet, and translator Christopher Marlowe, February 26 seems an auspicious day to celebrate the recent publication of Christopher Marlowe at 450. The year 2014 saw the 450th anniversary of Marlowe’s birth. To commemorate this significant anniversary, the book evaluates the scholarship and criticism treating all aspects of the poet/playwright–his biography, his individual poems, including his translations, and his seven plays–to discover what has been covered, what has been neglected, and what areas scholarship and criticism might focus on in the future.

There has never been a retrospective on Marlowe as comprehensive and up-to-date in appraising the Marlovian landscape. Each chapter has been written by an eminent Marlovian scholar, and in addition to considering all of Marlowe’s dramas and poetry, the volume contains chapters exploring the following special topics: critical approaches to Marlowe, Marlowe’s plays in performance; Marlowe and theater history; electronic resources for Marlowe research; and Marlowe’s biography. The volume thus provides an indispensable source of information not only for Marlowe students and scholars but for anyone interested in Renaissance drama and poetry. And because interest in every aspect of Marlowe studies has burgeoned since the turn of the century, it seems appropriate at this time to present a comprehensive assessment of traditional and contemporary approaches, and to predict future lines of inquiry into the life and work of this fascinating poet and playwright.

The book is dedicated to the Marlowe Society of America, and to the cadre of scholars throughout history who have devoted their time and talent to refining our understanding of Christopher Marlowe, and of his contributions to English literature.

***

Sara Munson Deats is Distinguished University Professor of English at the University of South Florida, and editor, with Robert A. Logan (Hartford), of Christopher Marlowe at 450.

Contributors to the book: Sara Munson Deats; Robert A. Logan; Ruth Lunney; Tom Rutter; Stephen J. Lynch; Leah S. Marcus; Patrick Cheney; M. L. Stapleton; Richard Wilson; David Bevington; Christopher Matusiak; David McInnis; Constance Brown Kuriyama

Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in ten years coincides with new Ashgate volume ‘Kazuo Ishiguro in a Global Context’

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Cynthia F. Wong and Hülya Yıldız’s edited collection on the work of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro has now been published – coinciding neatly with the arrival of the author’s first novel in a decade, The Buried Giant.

Ishiguro is one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, having won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day, as well as receiving an OBE for Services to Literature (1995) and the prestigious French decoration of Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1998).

Kazuo Ishiguro in a global contextBringing together an international group of scholars, Kazuo Ishiguro in a Global Context offers a fresh assessment of Ishiguro’s growing significance as a contemporary world author. Over the last three decades of interviews and public appearances, the author has been seen to grapple frequently with the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in being an ‘international’ author and writing an ‘international’ novel. By attending to Ishiguro’s career in a global context – via the author’s personal biography from Japan to the UK; by way of the topics and themes explored in his fiction; through the circulation and reception of his works in various editions and languages worldwide; and by presenting a truly global host of contributors – this collection pushes against the literary, political and linguistic borders that Ishiguro calls into question in his own writings.

With new Ishiguro material on the horizon, we are confident that the discussions and debates set into motion by Wong and Yıldız’s volume will adopt fresh relevance and open up new avenues of exploration for those considering literature’s global context in the twenty-first century.

About the Editors: Cynthia F. Wong is Associate Professor of English at the University of Colorado Denver, USA, and Hülya Yıldız is Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Language Education at Middle East Technical University, Turkey.

Ashgate and the Modern Language Association, Vancouver edition

Posted by Erika Gaffney, Publishing Manager

MLA stand 2015Representing Ashgate at our first MLA experience in Canada, Lea Durfee and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time!  The location was lovely, and the temperatures much milder than in Vermont, our usual base of operation, that particular week.  The Ashgate book display looked great (see picture) and got, we felt, a good reception from the assembled literary scholars.  We especially enjoyed hearing feedback about our book covers (“they really pop!”).

Medical cultures of the early modern Spanish empireInterest in Ashgate titles was strong across the full spectrum of the list, but particular elements seemed to stand out: for example, the New Hispanisms series, and within that series, the volume Medical Cultures of the Early Modern Spanish Empire.

Also of special note was the first unveiling to an MLA audience of a new book series, Among the Victorians and Modernists, General Editor: Dennis Denisoff.

We look forward to reconvening in Austin, next January, to display the latest offerings from our Literary Studies list, and to discuss new book proposals.

Ann C. Colley on Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain

 

Ann C ColleyPosted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

Ann C. Colley (pictured) talks to Ann Donahue about her new book, Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain: Zoos, Collections, Portraits, and Maps

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

I had just finished my Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, which had not only appealed to my love of landscape and admiration for climbers, but had also taken me to libraries and clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. It was when I entered the Wellcome Institute on Euston Road that something clicked. The Institute had launched a special exhibit on “Skin” that I found absolutely fascinating. I recall seeing pieces of tattooed skin taken from sailors in the nineteenth century and wondering about the role of skin and identity. Knowing that the role of skin in human portraiture during the Victorian era has been well rehearsed, I turned my thinking to animal skins and portraiture. Before I knew it, I was launched.

Wild animal skins in Victorian BritainYour book connects to so many areas of current interest in the humanities, including animal studies, museums, collecting, sensory studies, and the history of science. Were you surprised at the multiple directions in which your research led you?

No. Indeed I was drawn to the subject because it would do just that. Cultural studies are appealing because they engage so many intersecting disciplines and take one into unusual archives and libraries not open to the general public. Once I began accumulating materials, I immediately saw that the project would fit into the current interest in animal studies, museum studies, theories of portraiture, British colonialism, collecting, theories of touch and skin, as well as in history of science.

You came upon some fascinating characters in the course of your research, including the Earl of Derby. Can you say a few words about him as a collector and his association with Edward Lear?

For several years I have been buying Lear’s watercolor sketches as well as lithographs of his natural history paintings. Through this interest, of course, I knew that between 1831 and 1837, he was employed by the 12th Earl of Derby and later by the Earl’s son to sketch and paint portraits of the wild animals and exotic birds kept on the estate, which was the site of England’s largest private menagerie. To amass their amazing collection, the 12th and the 13th Earls commissioned collectors and agents from all over the world. The resulting correspondence between the 13th Earl of Derby and these agents makes for incredible reading. Lear was privy to this world and to those who worked for and were related to the Earl of Derby.

I was fascinated to learn that collecting animal skins was not just the prerogative of the privileged classes as I would have thought that collecting these specimens would be extremely costly. How common was this form of collecting among working- and middle-class individuals?

There are several studies of the working class and their interest in science, particularly those that discuss the fact that mill owners and manufacturers often encouraged their employees to learn as much as they could about the sciences so as to create a more knowledgeable workforce. Jane Camerini, John M. MaKenzie, E.P. Thompson, and Katie Whitaker, among others, have all written on the topic. For me, the most convincing and vivid evidence came from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton in which she makes a point of mentioning that the working-class men of Manchester were “warm and devoted followers” of the “more popularly interesting branches of natural history.” They “knew the name and habitat of every plant within a day’s walk from their dwelling.” Her character Job Legh, a self-educated spinner, who has access to the Liverpool docks where sailors would return with exotic specimens, is one of these “warm and devoted followers.”

In some ways, the interest in animal skins strikes me as analogous to the Victorians’ passion for travel writing. What was it about these specimens that was so appealing?

I, myself, travel to exotic places and write accounts of my sometimes disastrous adventures and have found that the wild life of a place is what defines the experience for me. When I was working on Wild Animal Skins, I discovered a similar impulse was at work among the Victorian public, who were fascinated by exotic birds and animals in faraway lands and would go to great lengths to see exhibits of these, to collect them (though I hasten to add I do not own any taxidermy specimens!), and to learn as much as it could about them. As I say in the introduction to my book “skin was not only a basic ingredient of portraiture but also the site of encounter with the exotic world.”

Many people would find a home adorned with animal skins from so-called exotic locales shocking and collecting such specimens is often illegal. Was the collecting of wild animal skins controversial during the Victorian era?

No. Unlike many, perhaps most, people today, the Victorians experienced little sense of guilt in looking at, owning, arranging, and admiring stuffed birds and animals. They rarely, if at all, thought about extinction. Even Darwin shot the last fox on the Galapagos Island. For them the distant world was full of plenty. That is not to say the Victorians were insensitive to the pain inflicted on animals. One has to remember that it is in the Victorian period that the antivivisectionists were active. I am not sure why, but taxidermy is coming back in style. One can go to a booth at a market in London to learn how to remove the skin of a bird or a mouse and stuff it. At a wedding recently I met a person from Brooklyn who practices taxidermy in her apartment. Skin will always elicit pleasure, disgust, and curiosity.

About the Author: Ann C. Colley is a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University College of New York at Buffalo. She has published numerous articles and books, including Victorians in the Mountains, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Colonial Imagination, Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture, The Search for Synthesis in Literature and Art: The Paradox of Space, Edward Lear and the Critics, and Tennyson and Madness.

Claire Tomalin on Beryl Gray: ‘Dickensians will love her book’ (The Guardian, 2014)

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

‘[Beryl] Gray is an intelligent and sensitive reader of Dickens’s work and her arguments are worth following. Dickensians will love her book’, writes award-winning biographer Claire Tomalin, whose book The Invisible Woman (1990) was recently adapted into a biographical drama directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes.

The dog in the Dickensian imaginationTomalin’s review of Gray’s The Dog in the Dickensian Imagination, which appeared in the Guardian in December, is testament to Dickens’ enduring popularity, as well as to the growing fascination with animals and their representation in fiction and art. Gray’s book shows how Dickens’ works frequently engaged with dogs, both real and imagined, during an era where canine company was a common characteristic of urban and domestic life. The dogs that Dickens kept and encountered became intrinsic to the author’s literary vision and to his representations of nineteenth-century London.

Beryl Gray’s book is the latest to be published in The Nineteenth Century Series, edited by Joanne Shattock and Vincent Newey. It was launched on the 20th November at a private function in Lumen United Reform Church, a hop, skip and a jump away from Tavistock Square, which served as Dickens’ residence for several years. Shattock, who spoke at the launch, declared herself ‘delighted to see the book in print – with its arresting dust jacket and its sumptuous illustrations.’ She added, ‘we are very pleased to have this book in the Nineteenth Century series, where, unsurprisingly Dickens has featured prominently. Quoting Claire Tomalin’s point that Dickens saw the world more vividly than other people, Beryl Gray suggests he saw dogs more vividly than other people … Gray offers insightful readings of familiar texts, and many astute readings of the illustrations, showing the way novelist and illustrator worked together, and instances of where they did not.’

J. A. Szirmai

The staff at Ashgate who worked with J. A. Szirmai, author of The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding (1999), were sad to hear that he died on the 2nd December 2014 at the age of 89.

Professor Szirmai spent twenty years in medical research and became a Professor of Medicine before making a name for himself as a professional bookbinder (some of his work can be seen here) and eventually turning to scholarship in the history of binding techniques.

His name has become virtually synonymous with his great reference work The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding, which covers the evolution of binding from the introduction of the codex two thousand years ago to the close of the Middle Ages. The many kind words from reviewers across the globe – a small selection of which can be read below – are testament to Szirmai’s great and lasting impact on the scholarly world.

‘All book historians owe Dr Szirmai an enormous debt of gratitude for having written it.’    The Library

‘A book literally without peer’    Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America

‘Szirmai deserves our indebtedness for a magisterial work which constitutes a milestone in the field of the archaeology of the book, qualifying the author as the first true archaeologist of the binding structure.’    CAB Newsletter

‘Reading it, and then trying to describe it to another person is like trying to describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has never seen it: in the end, you can only say, “You had to be there to understand.”’    Abbey Newsletter

‘The most important single contribution to the history of bookbinding to appear for many decades’    Guild of Booksellers Newsletter

Our sincere condolences to his wife, Mia, and to his family, friends, and those that have been influenced by his extraordinary scholarship.

100th volume published in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Marketing Executive

Autobiographical writing by early modern hispanic womenAshgate will publish the one hundredth title in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in January 2015. The series editors, Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger produced their first volume in 2000 (Maternal Measures, Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh). Fifteen years later, we can announce the one hundredth title is Autobiographical Writing by Early Modern Hispanic Women by Elizabeth Teresa Howe. The work focuses on the contributions of women writers to the study of life writing, and offers a symmetrical theme to the initial volume in the series.

We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger, as well as thanking them for their dedication to their role. To view the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in its entirety, and to read an interview with the series editors, please click here.

Forthcoming titles in the series: