Profitability and play in urban satirical pamphlets, 1575–1625
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This thesis reconstructs the genre of urban satirical pamphleteering. It contends that the pamphlets of Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, and Barnaby Rich are stylistically and generically akin. Writing in a relatively undefined form, these pamphleteers share an interest in describing contemporary London, and employ an experimental style characterised by its satirical energy. In addition, they negotiate a series of tensions between profitability and play. In the early modern period, ‘profit’ was variously conceived as financial, moral, or rooted in public service. Pamphleteers attempted to reconcile these senses of profitability. At the same time, they produced playful works that are self-consciously mocking, that incorporate alternative perspectives, and that are generically hybrid. To varying degrees, urban satirical pamphlets can be defined in relation to the concepts of profitability and play. Chapter One introduces the concept of moral profitability through an examination of Elizabethan moralistic pamphlets. In particular, it analyses the anxious response to profitability contained in Philip Stubbes’s Anatomie of Abuses (1583). Chapter Two argues that Greene disrupted appeals to totalising profitability, and instead demonstrated the alternative potential of play. Chapter Three examines Nashe’s notoriously evasive pamphlets, contending that he embraced play in response to the potential profitlessness of pamphleteering. Chapter Four argues that although Dekker and Middleton rejected absolutist notions of profitability, their pamphlets redirect stylistic play towards compassionate social commentary. Finally, Chapter Five explores Rich’s relocation of moralistic conventions in pamphlets that are presented as both honest and mocking. Taken as a whole, this thesis re-evaluates the style and genre of urban satirical pamphleteering. It reveals that this frequently overlooked literary form was deeply invested in defining and critiquing the purpose of literature.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-11-20
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 20th November 2022
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