Books in Progress

updated: 2019 Sept 5

The Printer as Author in the Early Modern English Book Trade: John Day and the Fabrication of a Protestant Memory Art (contract signed with Routledge; expected delivery date of e-typescript, August 2021)           

This book makes the case that John Day (1552-84) largely was responsible for the look, style, and authorized content of a significant body English Reformation printing. Unlike previous ‘history of the book’ treatments of Day’s achievements, my focus is on the aesthetic and mnemonically oriented cultural elements that informed his hybrid role as author, printer and ‘stationer’ and which positioned him to create, distribute, and own the rights to the English Protestant catechism, collection of metrical psalms, devotional manual for home use (The Book of Christian Prayers, popularly referred to as Queen Elizabeth’s Prayer Book), and John Foxe’s highly influential Acts and Monuments (also known as The Book of Martyrs). Day’s principal books were produced with wide circulation in mind; not simply for clerical readers but for, in all senses of the term, a popular audience. For example, the often reprinted Whole Book of Psalms (famously ‘collected into English meter by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins’), made a fortune for the patent holders, John Day and his son Richard. Consequently Day’s religious, political, and aesthetic preferences—and (as my book is the first to argue) his finely honed mnemotechnical sensibilities—indelibly shaped the original compilation, thereby setting a trend and model for the printing of similar and related works during the period.

INTRODUCTION [7,000 words]
PART 1 The Advancement of New Learning and the Business of Printing [25,000 words]
           Chapter 1. The deluxe design of Cunningham’s Cosmographical Glass (1559)
           Chapter 2. The undertaking of Van der Noot’s Protestant emblem book (1568)
PART 2   The Fabrication of a Protestant Memory Art [46,000 words]
            Chapter 3. The ABC with Little Catechism (1553) and Metrical Psalms (1562)
            Chapter 4. The grand enterprise, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs  (1563)
            Chapter 5. The layout and design of The Book of Christian Prayers (1569, 1578)
CONCLUSION [2,000 words]
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The Death Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology (contract signed with Cambridge; expected deivery date of e-typescript, January 2022), with Rory Loughnane and Grant Williams 

The following proposal outlines the case for a new anthology of texts and images about what we describe as the ‘death arts’ in Renaissance England. The anthology will offer a key resource for scholars, teachers, and students who wish to better understand how early moderns imagined and understood the encounter with mortality. Arranged into six subsections, such as the ‘Art of Dying treatises’, ‘Rhetoric and Poetics’, and ‘Religion and Devotion’, the anthology offers over 80 excerpts and 20 plus images that demonstrate the period’s extraordinary preoccupation with, and imaginative response to, the cessation of life. From how-to manuals for the best preparation for death to practices of remembrance in the face of tragic loss, the anthology covers a range of texts and images, in both form and genre, to recover and reveal death’s embeddedness in the cultural imagination. The anthology will be prefaced by an extended critical introduction that will outline the context for pre- and post-Reformation engagements with death in England. Each sub-section will be prefaced by a short introductory essay that describes how and why texts engaging with death cluster around these key subject areas. Each glossed and modernized excerpt will include detailed information about the author, the overall text, how the excerpt is representative (or misrepresentative) of the death arts, and suggestions for further reading. The book will appeal to all scholars of early modern literature and culture, book history, and the history of thanatology, and will prove an indispensable guide to the death arts for instructors and students alike.

Memory and Mortality in Early Modern England, co-edited with Rory Loughnane and Grant Williams, brings together leading international scholars working across these two fields to draw out the oft-neglected intersections between death and memory over the period bookended by the Tudor era and the Restoration. The fraught problems raised by these two conceptual domains are inextricably intertwined in some of the greatest and most frequently taught works of Renaissance English literature, including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, his sonnets, the poetry of John Donne, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. A collection that explores and illuminates the interrelationships of these fundamental categories of Renaissance knowing and doing, theory and praxis, will be a vital resource for teachers, students and researchers. Memory and Mortality in Renaissance England will also serve as a scholarly bridge between the editors’ two companion research volumes: The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, 2016) and The Death Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, expected 2021). The collection of essays will establish the rich vein connecting these two fields of study and investigation, gesturing toward new directions and further work that the critical anthologies can help kindle, guide, and contextualize. In the years to come, all three volumes will serve as beacons to illuminate the margins, depths, and hidden channels of these two intersecting areas of the archive. 

Memory and Mortality in Renaissance England is organized around three perspectives on the conjunction between memory and mortality. The first section, ‘The Arts of Remembering Death’, covers chapters that explore the ways in which writers prepare for death by marshaling variations on the ars moriendi and the ars reminiscendi. While weaving together rich traditions, learning how to die—consistent with other premodern arts—could be surprisingly pliable, plastic, and inventive. The second section, ‘Grounding the Remembrance of the Dead’, raises the issue of establishing the place of commemoration. Before the dead could be remembered, they needed to have a stable monument. Far from stable, such a ground often betrayed anxieties over posterity’s ability to make good on its duty to remember. And the final section, ‘The Ends of Commemoration’ presents four case studies on how remembering the dead in the period served disparate and often oblique agendas. The cultural work of mourning royals and nobles could advance different objects of remembrance altogether. 

Slips of Thought from Chaucer to Milton: imagining the stuff of allegory" (in manuscript)
"Nineteenth Centry Writers Reading Renaissance Texts: Poe, Melville, and Marx (nearly completed)
"Chaucer Chiastically Conceived: A Reader's Guide" (nearly completed)
"'Tears Such as Angels Weep': Angelic Intelligence from Milton to Poe" (nearly completed)
"Grace Resplendent: A Philological Study of 'Grace' in the English Literary Tradition" (draft stage)
"What the Pastoral Remembers: case studies from Theocritus to Walton" (pre-draft stage)

"What the Pastoral Remembers: case studies from Theocritus to Walton" (in progress) looks at the allegorical face of nostalgia in works that simultaneously lament the passing of an idealized vision of life in the world and celebrate the inevitability of its passing. In some cases, such as Walton's Compleat Angler, the reader temporarily is made to forget that a radical shift in social and political order is the accidental midwife of this testament to the simple pleasures of rural life. For example there is more than "beast fable" at work in his chapter on the natural beauty and predatory finesse of the otter which also is characterized as the bane of fishermen and farmers alike. 

"Return to Round River" (on-going project) based on my experiences as a teacher, youth worker, and Assistant Director at summer camp, this book considers a model of learning that mobilizes ideas of the pastoral, giving priority to "teachable moments" in the course of authentic, hands-on learning experiences. This approach is offered as a corrective to the tendency to control and contain students in the service of "standards-based learning."

"Parallel Lives of Island Nations" (on-going project) is modeled on the approach to writing popular biography pioneered by Plutarch. The lives of the notable and great were presented by weaving together what they were reported to have said and done. Jamaica, New Zealand (Aotearoa), and Iceland are the island nations whose stories this book sets out to tell. Among the exemplary lives paralleled are those of Marcus Garvey, one of the most powerful and controversial black rights activists of the twentieth century, and Bob Marley, the original ambassador of Reggae, whose music has become a symbol of unity and social change worldwide; Hone Heke, the Nhu Puhi warrior and first to sign the Treaty of Waitangi who later was to become the focal opponent of British occupation, and James Busby, the appointed British Resident who sought in earnest to broker peace between and among Maori tribes and the Pakeha commercial adventurers from Europe; and, from Iceland, Snorri Sturluson (born in 1179), writer of the oral Edda and Heimskringla, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir, the world's first democratically elected female president.

"Slips of Thought from Chaucer to Milton: Imagining the Stuff of Allegory" (in manuscript) stands squarely on the shoulders of C. S. Lewis (Studies in Words) and William Empson (The Structure of Complex Words); and, builds steadily on theories of language and culture put forward by Wilhelm von Humboldt (as a system which "makes infinite use of finite means"), Oswald Spengler ("the picture of history is a memory-picture"), and Ernst Cassirer ("the philosophy of symbolic forms"). By combining the approaches of philology, the memory arts, and iconography this book uncovers the wider implications of some terms that came to be taken for granted in everyday use and which thereby tended to slip their moorings - words such as "hap" and "hope," "dread" and "doom," "breath" and "death," "sovereign" and "foreign," "moors" and "morris," "handle" and "hoard," "inly" and "only," and, by way of a suggestive coda, "conjecture." Taken together, these five chapters provide a more critical understanding of the strata of English poetic culture brought back into view by virtue of this endeavor to take core samples from the moraine of received linguistic history.  CHAPTER OUTLINE for  "Slips of Thought from Chaucer to Milton: Imagining the Stuff of Allegory"

Chapter 1 establishes the historical grounding and main theoretical coordinates of this study by clarifying the affinity between lexical, textual, and mnemonic thinking in late medieval England. The first section offers a survey of Early English Dictionaries and "Hard Word Books," while the second goes on to consider the fortunes of the word "drede" from Chaucer to Skelton and then jumping ahead to Milton. Their works will allow me to test the thesis that striking patterns of lexicographical vitality emerged from the time of the first widely circulating Latin-English workbooks, Medulla grammatice (c.1460), to Thomas Blount's ambitious 11,000-entry Glossographia (1656).

Chapter 2 concerns two important movements in Chaucer's craft. First, a reassessment of his debt to the five-part structure of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy reveals the extent to which a mnemonic itinerary guides Troilus and Criseyde from both within and without. Second, a critical rethinking The Canterbury Tales in terms of the Dance of Death and related iconographic tropes betokening contemptus mundi (specifically by Lydgate and later by Holbein) brings to light some stunning connections--such as accounting for the three riotous youths in "The Pardoner's Tale" in terms of the "le dict des trois vifs et des trois morts" [the legend of the three living and the three dead] and finally identifying the Old Man in the tale as an evanescent emblem of the Wandering Jew.

Chapter 3 addresses what might be termed "the stuff of allegory," by building on what the previous chapter disclosed about the effectual power of language in the world--whether prayers or curses, relics or talismanic objects. This chapter begins by pointing out how keys terms used in connection with the figuring of death, "morts" and "Mors," homophonically mirrored the term for black people generally in late medieval culture, "moors," and, also the name of the festive dance used to celebrate regeneration in general and marriage in particular, "morris." The chapter ends by examining the implications of a link (and a slip) between the emblem of Occasio, closely associated with Fortuna (in which the viewer is told to grab her by the forelock as she spins by with an open razor in one hand, riches in the other), and the dancing dead in Holbein's famous woodcuts.

Chapter 4, "Handling Goods and Memory," examines a link between and a slip in the way that vice and virtue, like mercantile exchanges, were spoken of in material terms. The basis of this connection is brought out by careful consideration of the root meaning of the German word for trading, Handel. The hand as an emblem for enacting one's will in the world is shown to be conditioned by markers associated with the ars memorativa, and this chapter will go on to investigate how it came to apply to the stages of confession and penance (for example in Mannyng's Handling Sin and Chaucer's "Parson's Tale"), the marking of sententiae (printed pointers in literary works later to be mined by their readers for moral tags), the labeling of goods to be traded (in tracts by Elizabethan factors operating on the continent, such as I.B.'s Marchants avizo), and simply implying facility and cleverness more generally ("handy" Nicholas, for example, in "The Miller's Tale"). Finally, the hands of Adam and Eve in Milton's Paradise Lost are an index to the mnemonic place holders in the poem, inciting readers to take note of the shift in the epic action.

Chapter 5 concerns "Milton's Poetics of Interiority" and is a case study in the use of Anglo-Saxon terms in Renaissance epics focusing primarily on Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. John Milton's use of Latin words and sentence structure has been well studied over the centuries. An indirect consequence of this has been to deflect scholarly attention away from the place of Old English in his poetic register. This chapter argues that distinctively Anglo-Saxon terms were used at decisive moments in Milton's poetry with startling - sometimes intentionally arresting - effects. Diverging from his usual practice, it calls attention to specific themes and terms that Milton highlighted as being absolutely fundamental to the human soul. Looking more closely at the Old English word "inly" (meaning "internal" or "secret") will help shed light on the lexical core of Milton's essentially mnemonic approach to composition. Notions of interiority will be shown to be linked conceptually to his understanding of the origins of English and thus can serve as an index to his awareness of the ground of his own poetic craft and vocation as a poet-priest. While the principal focus of this chapter is on the pulling inward to one's inmost self, the conclusion to the book as a whole examines the implications of the word "conjecture" (a casting outward) with special reference to Milton, Burton, Browne, and Walton, all of whom looked back self-consciously to earlier lexical and cultural models to frame their distinctively English literary projects.