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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 2 - Dreamless Art for the People

Summary

This chapter reassesses the aesthetics of the early modern broadside ballad, arguing for the paradoxical readerly and writerly value of literary inadequacy. The authenticity gap, between the reality of the pre-Reformation past and the stylised conventions through which these broadsides approached it, offered an opportunity in which both writers and readers were complicit. One was the commodification of ‘northern-ness’ in popular literary culture in the years after the Northern Rising, which reveals in miniature the cultural and political work this kind of print could carry out: for example in William Elderton’s A New Yorkshyre Song. It also opened up creative possibilities ifor entrepreneurial writers and printers. These are very much at work in invocations of the cheap print merry world in William Kemp’s Nine Daies Wonder (1600) and Thomas Nashe’s Lenten Stuffe (1599), both from the disorderly world of commercial entertainment, who use these tropes both to shape and legitimate their authorial personas and as springboard for innovation.