Thomas Middleton's Shelf Life

Julian Yates

in The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Middleton

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199559886
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Thomas Middleton's Shelf Life

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The The Owle's Almanacke may be described as a mock-almanac, a parody, and so to assimilate her to the world of almanac production in early modern England. But to proclaim The Owle a mock-almanac begs an even greater set of questions about what remains still essentially an understudied phenomenon in early modern England and Europe: the circuits of information and book use that formed between variously skilled groups of readers or book users and the readers or book users we name writers. This article begins by contextualizing The Owle within the larger traditions of almanac parody, which for Middleton became a career-long obsession. It then examines the zoographic play of The Owle as it thematizes the processes of reading and finding yourself read – caught up, that is, in a series of machine-like responses that you had assumed were singular, personal, yours, and which now offer a different order of pleasure than that of use. The article traces The Owle's relationship to the Faust story, finding in Middleton's mock-almanac a comical, prosaic instance of the more urgent, desperate questions of ‘shelf life’ provoked by the blood writing of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (1604/1616). It concludes by asking how Middleton's mock-almanac might lead us to rethink the model of reading most usually deployed to make sense of early modern modes of ‘book use’.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; Owle's Almanacke; almanac parody; book users; writers; mock almanac

Article.  7828 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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