Having The Last Word

Jane Griffiths

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Having The Last Word

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



This article revisits John Skelton's envoys — where the poet sends forth his poem — and his revisions in the light of the increasing use of print over the course of his lifetime. Skelton began his writing career at a time when ‘publication’ was more likely to be by manuscript circulation than in print. His works survive in a variety of manuscripts and early printed editions which often preserve significantly different texts, providing a basis from which to investigate assumptions about differences between print and manuscript publication. Although print used frequently to be spoken of as a medium that entails closure, the printing of Skelton's Speak Parrot and A Garland of Laurel supports recent revisions of this view. Like a manuscript witness, the first printed edition of Speak Parrot attests Skelton's habit of revision, while that of A Garland reveals how he exploits differences between manuscript and print in order to renegotiate his position vis-àvis his audience. For Skelton, far from imposing a definite form on a poet's works, print may serve precisely as a means of ‘derangement’, or rearrangement. These editions suggest that Skelton is both more engaged with his readers and more adaptable to change than has often been suggested, presenting him as a poet who is willing and able to draw on new technology both for political ends and as an aid to defining and asserting his own poetic authority.

Keywords: poets; poem; revisions; print; manuscript publication

Article.  8225 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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