“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.
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