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The Pursuit of Style in Early Modern Drama
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Book description

The Pursuit of Style in Early Modern Drama examines how early modern plays celebrated the power of different styles of talk to create dynamic forms of public address. Across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, London expanded into an uncomfortably public city where everyone was a stranger to everyone else. The relentless anonymity of urban life spurred dreams of its opposite: of being a somebody rather than a nobody, of being the object of public attention rather than its subject. Drama gave life to this fantasy. Presented by strangers and to strangers, early modern plays codified different styles of talk as different forms of public sociability. Then, as now, to speak of style was to speak of a fantasy of public address. Offering fresh insight for scholars of literature and drama, Matthew Hunter reveals how this fantasy – which still holds us in its thrall – played out on the early modern stage.


'The Pursuit of Style in Early Modern Drama is a powerful intervention in early modern studies: a fresh analytic of the social work of the stage, delivered in brisk, seductively enjoyable prose. Hunter’s exploration in cultural poetics reveals how the London theatre forged a mutually constitutive relationship between style and publicity, and also provides the outline of a new history of English Renaissance drama.'

András Kiséry - City College New York

'Matthew Hunter brings an entirely fresh perspective to the notion of style in early modern drama, conceiving it in terms of generative forms directly affecting interaction in the public world. He shows, on the one hand, how people adapted such polished theatrical forms as ‘tough talk,’ ‘court talk,’ or' ‘love talk’ as scripts for their own social performances, and, on the other, how people reacted to one another's ‘misfires’ in their attempts at stylistic appropriation. The book brilliantly illuminates the dialogic feedback loop by which stage-plays both create and parody the public's aspirational pursuit of style.'

Lynne Magnusson - University of Toronto

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  • Chapter 1 - Stage Talk
    pp 41-80


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