They are all fossils: A Paleontology of Early Modern Drama

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


In this essay I want to defamiliarize the metaphor of mortality and preservation by exploring an analogy in which all textual traces of early modern drama, both playscripts and other forms of record, are in effect fossils of dead originals. I will argue that the language and conventions of palaeontology can be helpful when thinking both about the lost and the extant drama from this period. In particular, that discipline provides a vocabulary for imagining the extent to which even plays conventionally regarded as extant are preserved only in partial and contingent records. Palaeontology offers a way to address the methodological problems implicit in interpreting a whole early modern “media ecosystem” — as one might say — from its scattered surviving fossils.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLoss and the Literary Culture of Shakespeare's Time
EditorsMatthew Steggle, David McInnis, Roslyn L. Knutson
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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