The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance

The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance

The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance

The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance

Synopsis

What did it mean to be published at the end of the sixteenth century? While in polite circles gentlemen exchanged handwritten letters, published authors risked association with the low-born masses. Examining a wide range of published material including sonnets, pageants, prefaces, narrative poems, and title pages, Wendy Wall considers how the idea of authorship was shaped by the complex social controversies generated by publication during the English Renaissance.

Excerpt

It is difficult to write a preface for a book that devotes much of its time to critiquing book prefaces. As a female academic in a profession where "publish or perish" is the ever-present battle cry, I also find it difficult not to feel self-conscious about writing a book concerned with the gendered anxieties of publication and the masculinization of the domain of authorship. Rather than sending out my book as a coy maiden or a last will and testament, as did many Renaissance writers and publishers, I will simply preface this work by entertaining some of the questions that may immediately be raised by the tripartite subject evoked by the title: authorship, gender, publication.

What do authorship and publication have to do with each other, given that authors were around long before the Gutenberg invention? Why write a book about late sixteenth-century publication when the press had been operative for one hundred years? Why offer another book about Renaissance authorship at all? and isn't it old news that authorship is gendered?

To begin: I argue in this book that nondramatic texts written between 1557 and 1621 reveal in startling ways how publishers and writers negotiated Renaissance versions of authorship. Certainly print had been available in England since Caxton set up a press in 1476, but it was only in the latter half of the sixteenth century that print became popular and affordable enough to come into real conflict with the still burgeoning manuscript culture. This conflict generated political tensions even though publishing was still a limited endeavor at that time: often a print run would yield only five hundred . . .

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