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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 1, 2011

Early Modern Prose Fiction and the Place of Poetics

Gerd Bayer
From the journal


This essay investigates the place of poetics in early modern English literature. Place, in this context, carries a dual meaning: it questions both the relative value of critical writing vis--vis aesthetic creation and the material space given to discussions of poetological issues. A detailed investigation of the latter shows that poetics can look back on a long textual history that is nevertheless marked by spatial transformations. It is only relatively late that poetics claims, first, a separate material space within the object of the book and then, second, matures into its own textual type. By looking at the changing physical locality of critical praxis, this essay shows that growing from the roots of textual criticism, theories of prose claimed ever larger material spaces. In the period between Sidney's Defence (1595) and Pope's Essay on Criticism (1711), poetics existed predominantly in the paratextual realm and only gradually became a stand-alone form, thereby implicitly allowing early modern literary forms to speak for themselves in the marketplace of commodity reading.

Published Online: 2011-December
Published in Print: 2011-December