My Dairy Milk advent calendar reminded me this morning that it's time for this month's round of self-justification. Already, surprisingly, it's getting hard to track my month-by-month progress, as the work all blends into one. In many senses that's good, as it implies there's some continuity in my work so far(!). However, here's a few of the things I got up to in November:
- Reading: I rounded off a period of research on early modern playing practices with Lucy Munro's excellent Children of the Queen's Revels. Richard Proudfoot's collection of lectures, Shakespeare: Text, Stage and Canon was an extremely well-spent afternoon, particularly in his Canon article which directly addresses the apocrypha and contains a lot of useful snippets (including a bit of external evidence that puts the date of The Birth of Merlin wll after Shakespeare's death). After these, though, I dived back into the eighteenth century ahead of my writing, searching through ECCO for references to the apocrypha throughout the century.
As mentioned in my last blog, I've also started the intensive reading of early modern dramatists. I've covered most of Marlowe in the last week, re-reading Tamburlaine, both texts of Faustus, The Jew of Malta and Edward II. I also read Thomas of Woodstock, one of the more controversial of the apocryphal plays, which was thoroughly interesting - anyone who likes Richard II should definitely have a look.
- Writing: I've just paused on what I can justifiably call my first substantial bit of writing. It's not hugely long, and it's far from complete, but it's the first pass at a first draft at what could conceivably be my second(?) chapter. In brief, it tracks the apocrypha "From Chetwind to Malone"; the 1664 2nd impression of the third Folio to the 1790 edition of Shakespeare by Malone. My argument ties together the establishment of a 'canon' for Shakespeare with his growing cultural and national importance as he rose to the status of 'national poet', demonstrating that the canon as we know it is a product of 18th century values and aesthetic criteria. It is during this period that the apocryphal plays were, as it were, damned - in some cases, perhaps too rashly. I'm finding biblical metaphors of canonicity and divine inspiration quite helpful in articulating my thoughts. It's still some way off, but the ideas are starting to take shape. This chapter will primarily provide context for the received views under which we now labour, and hopefully encourage a more objective framework for investigation. This will follow a section on the early external evidence and understanding of early modern repertory playing; and will be followed by work on later scholarship, leading into internal evidence.
It's early days still. I'm pleased with the general sense of what's going on, but it still needs a great deal doing to it. Nevertheless, I'm feeling confident that this will be able to provide a good basis for my upgrade in May.
- Other activities: Theatregoing has been quietish, but I caught King Lear in Liverpool (appalling) and Twelfth Night in Stratford (hilarious), the latter of which I've just finished a review of for a journal. I've been to a considerable amount of research seminars and academic training sessions, and my work with the Business School has been continuing. It's slightly scary how quickly the month has gone to be honest!
December brings with it a great deal of peace on campus, so I'm planning to plough on with a considerable amount of reading and writing over the holiday. I'm also writing a paper to give at a postgraduate seminar series in January, so that'll keep me busy over the turkey!