" The act of penning in William Baldwin's 'Beware the Cat' "

Rachel Stenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This essay argues that 'Beware the Cat' presents itself as a penned text, not just an oral or printed one. Baldwin highlights the specifically handwritten word as a unique component in the text and considers its various hermeneutic facets. His interest in the materials and processes of writing anticipates that of later prose fiction writers, such as Thomas Nashe and George Gascoigne; in this sense he can be seen in the 1550s articulating concerns that would become characteristic of subsequent prose narrative. Two areas in Beware the Cat are particularly important to this discussion: the editorial fiction as established in G. B.'s framing material, and the bawd's letter as described in Mouse-slayer's oration. Baldwin identifies handwriting as an intermediate stage in the book production process, imagining the relationship between orality and printing not in opposition but along a continuum. He also presents handwriting as an act that is at once manual, creative and performative, that becomes a subject of fiction and a philosophical problem. The philosophical context is introduced through allusions to the Platonic dialogue, 'Phaedrus', and Baldwin's own 'Treatise of Moral Philosophy'. This has consequences for the text's meditations on not only penning but on printing and orality too.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRenaissance Studies
Early online date6 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • William Baldwin
  • Beware the Cat
  • handwriting
  • Phaedrus
  • prose

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