Rethinking Middleton’s collaborations: making meaning in early modern texts

Kane, Eilidh Ewart (2014) Rethinking Middleton’s collaborations: making meaning in early modern texts. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Thomas Middleton’s work as a playwright and pamphleteer was highly collaborative: from 1601 to 1627 he wrote with at least ten of his contemporaries including Dekker, Jonson and Shakespeare. However, Middleton’s texts are even more collaborative than these writing partnerships would suggest. This thesis defines collaboration as the act of sharing in the process of making meaning, and so proposes that Middleton’s collaborators included not only his many co-writers but also performers, printers and editors.
Middleton’s partnership with Thomas Dekker, the three plays and two pamphlets they co-wrote together, are the starting point from which I explore early modern collaboration. Since these texts have survived only in print form, the best information available about the creative processes that generated them is archival sources and the evidence provided by attribution studies. Yet there are two potential problems with the use of attribution evidence. First, because attribution involves assigning parts of texts to writers, it can imply that co-written texts were always singly authored in separate sections then pieced together. Secondly, attribution’s concern with tracking the presence of authors can suggest that non-authorial contributions to a text are not worthwhile. This thesis challenges both of these assumptions.
To resolve the tension between valuable evidence provided by attribution studies and their misrepresentation (as I see it) of collaboration, this thesis takes as its starting point those poststructuralist theories which call for a decentred conception of the author. Co-writing can then be understood as an essential aspect of how meaning in a text is made but not the only significant aspect. My thesis reframes attribution evidence in light of this idea and uses it to gain insight into how and why Middleton and Dekker wrote together, rather than to discover ‘who wrote what’. I argue that Middleton began writing with the more experienced Dekker to hone his craft and that their process changed as Middleton became more practised. Taking this approach to attribution scholarship means that I can investigate co-writing without devaluing non-authorial collaboration: Middleton and Dekker’s co-writing is presented alongside the collaborative acts of those who performed, printed and edited their texts. By applying the idea of a decentred author to attribution evidence, this thesis offers an original way to approach early modern collaboration: one which analyses co-writing whilst recognising it as part of a larger network of collaborative acts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: collaboration, early modern drama, early modern printing, pamphlets, Middleton, Dekker, Mary Frith
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Maslen, Dr. Robert and Price, Dr. Victoria
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Ms Eilidh Kane
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5127
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2014 10:15
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2017 08:35

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