Reading Popular Romance in Early Modern England

Synopsis

With the expansion of the publishing industry between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, reading for pleasure became possible for an increasing number of people, not just the wealthy and educated. The growth of the book trade produced, alongside elite literature, a parallel popular literature. Lori Humphrey Newcomb examines the proliferation of romances in early modern England, as well as their vilification by elite writers. Using as her case study Robert Greene's Pandosto (1585), an Elizabethan prose romance that inspired Shakespeare's late play, The Winter's Tale, she shows that the two forms of literature influenced each other profoundly. Because Shakespeare's works are considered timeless literary achievements, critics have distanced his plays from his romantic sources -- a separation that until now has gone unquestioned. Newcomb undermines this assumption, providing a fascinating account of an early bestseller's incarnations over 250 years of literary history.

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