MSA at MLA, 2012 (I):
“Booking Marlowe”

Papers in the session addressed various aspects of publishing and print culture: attribution, anonymity, the Elegies, and “The Passionate Shepherd”; the concept of the index and Hero and Leander; and the initial reception of The Jew of Malta as a book.

Photographs by David McInnis

310. Booking Marlowe

Friday, 6 January 2012, 3.30-4.45 p.m., Washington State Convention Center, Rm. 307

Program arranged by the Marlowe Society of America

Presiding: Roslyn L. Knutson, University of Arkansas, Little Rock

1. “Anonymous Marlowe,” Adam G. Hooks, University of Iowa

Authorship is usually an act of naming: an authorial reputation is built through the act of attribution. This paper, however, seeks to subtract Marlowe’s name by taking seriously the initial—and anonymous—publication and circulation of his poetry. His translation of Ovid’s Amores was published surreptitiously, and the critical concern with the work has focused primarily on its censorship by the Bishops’ Ban in 1599. picReading the Amores without, or at least beyond, Marlowe allows for a more comprehensive account of the work’s place in the Ovidian milieu of the 1590s. Likewise, “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love” was attributed to Marlowe in a single printed miscellany, and this attribution has obscured the multitude of ways the popular poem circulated. The poem did not require an author, and was familiar enough that reading the poem as Marlowe’s alone severely limits our understanding of its place in other economies. This paper argues for the crucial importance of looking at these poems as they first appeared—without Marlowe’s name attached to them—in order to recover their multiple material forms and meanings, and to change the way we conceive of and construct Marlowe’s authorial reputation.

2. “Leander’s Index: Marlowe, Books, and Passion,” Sarah Wall-Randell, Wellesley College

In Hero and Leander, Marlowe describes Leander after his first night with his beloved, his passion as it were written on his face: “Therefore even as an index to a book / So to his mind was young Leander’s look” (2.129-30).  Marlowe’s bookish simile reflects the sixteenth-century rise of the alphabetical index as an innovative print-culture technology, a way of organizing and managing information. pic This paper will place Leander’s look in the context of similar metaphors of the index in the work of sixteenth-century poets including Ariosto and Shakespeare.  Like other figures of the index, Leander’s look stages a kind of comic deflation, undercutting heightened affect with quotidian rationality and supplanting sovereign agency with the inert anonymity of an object.  At the same time, the idea of the index offers these poets a rich medium for representing interiority and the self, playing with ideas of knowability and readability.  Ultimately the poetics of the index lead to a way of modeling interiority and the mysteries of affect in the print age.    

3. “Nicholas Ling, Elizabethan Republicanism, and The Famouse Tragedie of the Riche Jewe of Malta (1594),” Kirk Melnikoff, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

This essay will consider the potential terms of The Jew of Malta’s earliest reception as a book, four decades before the first extant print edition was published by Nicholas Vavasour in 1633. picThough Ling and Millington may never have brought Marlowe’s tragic farce to press, they did register their intention to do so on May 17th, 1594 when they entered the play in the Stationers Register as “the famouse tragedie of the Riche Jewe of Malta.” Ling was likely the prime mover of the project, publishing a large variety of material until his death in 1607, including numerous works by Michael Drayton and close to a dozen collections of sententiae. Starting in 1594, Ling also appears to have begun specializing in texts having pervasive Republican themes, works by the likes of Kyd, Lodge, Henry Middleton, Drayton, Shakespeare, and Goslicius. This essay, of course, will not be the first to associate Marlowe with Republican thought in the later years of Elizabeth’s reign. It will, however, be the first to suggest that The Jew of Malta-as-book may have initially been read according to the varying terms of this discourse.