Cultural Readings of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Theater

Edited by J. Douglas Canfield and Deborah Payne Fisk


“This work will assume a respected place within the current critical work on Restoration and eighteenth-century literature. These essays are consistently engaging and quite timely.”
—Jill Campbell, Yale University

“The essays are composed in a great variety of voices, and cover a range of theoretical and critical interests that defy easy conflation. They successfully engage this problem because they construe the plays anew by refusing any singular or monolithic conception of their sociality.”
—Michael McKeon, Rutgers University


Ranging in approach from feminist to historicist, the eleven essays in this collection share the culturalist premise that the drama of late Stuart and early Georgian England helped to constitute the dominant ideology of the period. The contributors’ varied approaches allow for the reconsideration of libertinism, the politics of sexual desire, and other classic issues, as well as such newer concerns as the social construction of the first English actresses, empiricism as an emergent epistemological discourse, cultural anxiety about novelty and repetition, and shifting tropes of inherent worth.

By reading well-known works in unexpected ways and focusing on less frequently studied dramatists, from Sedley, Motteux, Pix, and Behn to Manley, Trotter, and Shadwell, the contributors also test the limits of the canon. In addition, they suggest that earlier critical perceptions, perhaps even more than the “innate worth” of the plays, determined the shape of the canon.

These essays present a different image of Restoration and eighteenth-century theater, one that reveals how the drama was a site as important for the negotiation of cultural meaning as were novels and verse satires.

Page count: 330 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $30.95

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J. Douglas Canfield (1941–2003) was Regents’ Professor of English at the University of Arizona. He was the author or editor of numerous books including The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Drama and The Baroque in English Neoclassical Literature. Deborah Payne Fisk is an associate professor of literature at American University. She is editor of Four Restoration Libertine Plays and The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre.