Formal matters

Reading the materials of English Renaissance literature

Formal Matters is intended as an exploration of the emerging and potential links in early modern literary and cultural studies between the study of material texts on the one hand, and the analysis of literary form on the other. The essays exemplify some of the ways in which an attention to the matter of writing now combines in critical practice with the questioning of its forms: how an interest in forms might combine with an interest in the material text and, more broadly, in matter and things material. Section I, ‘Forming literature’, makes literary and sub-literary forms its focus, examining notions of authorship; ways of reading, consuming, and circulating literary and non-literary material; and modes of creative production and composition made possible by the exigencies of specific forms. Section III, ‘The matters of writing’, examines forms of writing, both literary and non-literary, that grapple with other fields of knowledge, including legal discourse, foreign news and intelligence, geometry, and theology. At stake for the authors in this section is the interface between discourses encoded in, and even produced through, specific textual forms.Linking these two sections are a pair of essays take up the subject of translation, both as a process that transforms textual matter from one formal and linguistic mode to another and as a theorization of the mediation between specific forms, materials, and cultures.

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‘Above all what emerges from this fascinating collection of essays is the importance of material approaches to literary and nonliterary texts in dialogue with other modes of reading. As such, meaning is collaborative, constructed by diverse agents, including but not limited to authors, compilers, scribes, printers, stationers, and readers, and generated by physical and visual as well as textual forms such as script, typeface, page layout, paper, and size — in other words, all the various material extratextual features that communicated significant meaning to early modern writers and readers.'
James Daybell, University of Plymouth
Renaissance Quarterly 69.4
Winter 2016

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