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Author: Andy Kesson

This book discusses the extent of John Lyly's importance for early modern authorship in three parts: prose fiction, drama and reception. The first two parts study Lyly's impact on early modern culture, focusing on prose fiction and drama respectively. In each part, the first chapter assesses Lyly's originality and the second chapter assesses the impact of that authorship upon the print market for each of those literary forms. These two parts demonstrate how Lyly's work was innovative and was received and commodified by his contemporaries. The third part of the book examines Lyly's reception history up to the present day, focusing on nineteenth-century uses of the word euphuism as part of a debate over appropriate literary male style. The dynamic relationship between performance and text creates the market for two basic kinds of English literature: printed single-story fiction and printed drama. Lyly's dramaturgical stories are as elusive and protean as his prose fiction. At the same time that his character Euphues was being reworked and commodified by print writers and publishers, Lyly reworked and innovated ways to create fictional worlds and characters in the theatre.

Movement as emotion in John Lyly
Andy Kesson

This chapter considers the emotional and motive implications of John Lyly’s writing. It moves from the spatial metaphors of Sapho and Phao to the representation of authorship as something uniquely painful in Lyly’s prose fiction. It concludes with the onstage creation of a character in Lyly’s verse play, The Woman in the Moon, which allows us to see painfully emotive subjectivity created onstage in both fictional and literal terms, as a small boy represents an empty body becoming a person. Lyly’s spatial metaphors and his exploration of authorship, prose style and character subjectivity make emotive experience physical and unstable. In performance, of course, all emotive representation is active, as the word ‘actor’ ought to remind us, but in Lyly, as with the epilogue above, audience response is repeatedly cast as an active as well as a reactive process. Lyly’s discussion of his own work seems to poise somewhere between the intellect and the passions, in what he calls a ‘labyrinth of conceits’. As a principal dramatist of ambiguity and uncertainty, he is especially helpful in relation to current debates about the history of emotion.

in The Renaissance of emotion
Lyly, euphuism and a history of non-reading (1632–1905)
Andy Kesson

This chapter examines the early modern history of the word euphuism and its afterlife in the eighteenth century and beyond. In contrast to work on William Shakespeare's reception history, the chapter charts a history of non-reading, in which John Lyly is ignored in favour of his contemporaries or dismissed because of his presupposed euphuism. The chapter shows how Edward Blount's use of the word euphuism was understood and redefined in Robert Walter Dodsley's 1744 Old Plays. It examines the association of Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde with euphuism at the end of the nineteenth century. The chapter shows how the meaning of euphuism became further dislocated from Lyly himself, whilst simultaneously influencing Lyly's own reception. When the word 'euphuism' was either first coined or first printed, Lyly's print authorship was still being established in prose, in drama and in the imitative use of his protagonist on other peoples' title pages.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
Lyly’s elusive theatre (1583–c.1590)
Andy Kesson

This chapter asks questions about John Lyly's onstage worlds to determine his impact on early modern dramaturgy, both as represented in the theatre and in the printed versions of his plays. It also shows ways in which this dramaturgy suggests continuity with the prose fiction. Lyly in his court prologue to Campaspe, throws emphasis upon what 'may be thought' by the audience, what 'shape one would conceive', and not upon the mimetic powers of Agrippa and his shadows. Lyly's onstage euphuism constitutes a radical blend of 'variegated uses of performance' of the sort that Robert Weimann divides between 'presentational' and 'representational' modes of performance. The Cupid in Love's Metamorphosis is different from the boy in Sapho and Phao. Cupid's contingent power has an obvious applicability to the Elizabethan court that watched Lyly's plays at a time when the import of Elizabeth's decision not to marry became ever more fractious.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
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Lyly, Euphues and the market for single-story books (1578–94)
Andy Kesson

This chapter considers one way in which John Lyly's popularity created new forms of literature and permitted new kinds of authorial careers and reading experiences. In the 1580s and early 1590s, writers and publishers attempted to use Lyly and Euphues as cultural icons. The chapter demonstrates the complex way in which Euphues was both distinct from and representative of Lylian authorship. By the late 1580s the dominance of the single-story book form which Gabriel Cawood and Lyly had introduced was obvious. The claim that Robert Greene followed Lyly was made within a book, Greene's Alcida: Greenes metamorphosis that had been created in Lyly's model. The half of Lyly's first title, the Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, had introduced the concept of anatomy to a non-scientific market. The unprecedented reprint rate of Lyly's prose fiction and plays has received little attention from Lyly scholars and from historians.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
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Imaginative stories in the book market (1566–78)
Andy Kesson

This chapter assesses John Lyly's discursive intrusion from the following perspective: the emerging market for print narrative into which Lyly's Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit literally intruded. It shows Lyly's innovative position within the speculative book market. As an imaginative author revising the Euphues and His England narrative, Lyly showed himself to be as engaged in the problems of linear story composition as any of his characters. By considering the development of the prose fiction market from the point of view of a writer who also wrote plays, the chapter begins a conversation about different kinds of early modern storytelling. Euphuism exceeds Lyly's authorship, in the sense that other writers were euphuistic, but Lyly's authorship also exceeded euphuism. Lyly's style cannot be used to explain the writer's immediate impact on the prose fiction market.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
Creating a market for printed plays (1584–94)
Andy Kesson

This chapter assesses the publication of John Lyly's plays from Joan Brome's perspective of the print market. It considers recent debates about playbook popularity in relation to the 1580s and 1590s print market and shows ways in which the two nascent markets for prose fiction and drama intersected. The chapter emphasises the way prose fiction writers responded to changes in theatre culture. In particular, the predominance of a smaller number of theatre companies in London from 1583, by incorporating characters from the stage within their prose stories was emphasized. The chapter builds on the earlier demonstration that Lyly began and became associated with the market for prose fiction arguing that Lylian authorship enabled literary and print innovation across the boundary between drama and prose fiction. The chapter addresses the reasons for early modern publishers to take considerable financial risks in publishing the dramatic works of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
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Our Lyly?
Andy Kesson

The apparent self-consciousness of John Lyly's opening to Euphues and His England is confirmed from within the text by the complaint that Euphues' story was forgettable, incomprehensible and inconclusive. Lyly opens his story by warning his readers to suspect and interrogate stories. A major stumbling-block for Lyly scholars or prospective Lyly readers has been the idea of his writing style, often described by the unwieldy word 'euphuism'. For early modern cultural reasons and because of the partly haphazard survival of playtexts into the modern era, then, Lylian authorship blurs the distinction between repertory and single-author studies. Within the collaborative world of early modern theatre, at a time when few single writers took responsibility over an entire script, Lyly had an unusual degree of authority over his text in performance and publication. This chapter also presents some of the key concepts of this book.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
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Go dare
Andy Kesson

John Lyly's role as a court writer has been much misunderstood, not least in G. K. Hunter's Humanist as Courtier. Lyly has shared with Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher critical distaste for their supposedly distinctive association with monarchical entertainment. He created a kind of prose fiction that was not only new but came to define the shape the future novel was to take. His prose fiction defined a new model of storytelling while his plays seeped into the discourse of printed books, so that Robert Greene's Menaphon and Thomas Lodge's Rosalind engage with both sides of his authorship. Lyly created characters, phrases and literary forms that dominated contemporary writing. Stuart definitions of the genre, as seen in Edward Blount's Shakespeare First Folio as well as in his Lyly publication, have little resemblance to 1580s usages.

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship