The Drama of Landscape: Land, Property, and Social Relations on the Early Modern Stage

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Stanford University Press, 1998 - Literary Criticism - 292 pages
This book explores the ways in which a range of early modern plays -- Shakespeare's King Lear, Cymbeline, and Richard II, Heywood's 1 Edward IV, Brome's A Jovial Crew, and the anonymous Arden of Faversham and Woodstock -- intervene in the ongoing reconceptualization of land and land ownership in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In addition to plays, the author looks at a variety of texts -- ballads, estate surveys, accounts of coronation processions, county atlases and spaces, the highway, the city, the market town, the estate -- in order to retrieve forgotten landscapes of early modern England.

Associated with the landscape arts, such as country house poems or landscape paintings, the category of landscape has come to be seen as inseparable from texts produced in accordance with the values of aristocratic landowners. Though literary critics have recognized that such an account of landscape represents as natural and inevitable the perspective of landed aristocrats and gentry, they have offered no alternative to this account.

Drawing on the broader meanings of landscape offered by the work of geographers, the author analyzes the variety of landscapes that reveal distinct modes of engagement with, and conceptions of, the land itself. These modes are indivisible from a range of social practices, from the communal traversing of parish boundaries to gathering firewood, and are also registered, championed, and/or contested in the rich dramatic literature in the early modern period.

The book shows that Renaissance dramatic texts participate in the construction of an array of early modern landscapes, thereby producing multiple conceptions of the relationship betweenland and social relations. These conceptions both reformulate the category of landscape and reveal the contributions of literary and nonliterary texts to an ongoing ideological struggle over the ways in which land can mean.

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About the author (1998)

Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr. is Assistant Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.

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