“What Is Between The Covers: Books and the Public/Private Divide”

Presented by John Henry Adams
Graduate Teaching Associate, ASU Dept. of English

Eventbrite - Ad Hoc Lecture: “What Is Between The Covers: Books and the Public/Private Divide”

Free and open to the public

There is a recurring fantasy in late sixteenth-century English drama that books’ contents are wholly interchangeable, i.e., that you can easily replace the contents of a book without affecting its covers. This fantasy tends to be linked with the idea of a highly malleable self: when people talk about changing their books’ contents, they are actually talking about changing themselves, ideally preserving their original outward seeming. The difficulty with the fantasy is that it isn’t possible: books as made in the period cannot have their contents switched quite so easily and the plays that discuss the changeable nature of books also tend to depict how unrealistic the fantasy actually is. While the contents of the books may be highly malleable, they also appear to ‘remember’ their own past configurations. Just as marginalia could not be fully erased and contemporary binding techniques made the contents and cover of a book a single cohesive whole, so too could identities not be fully exchanged. In this talk, I will explore the idea of the self as a book whose contents can be easily changed as depicted in Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy (1587), Arden of Faversham (1588), and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1599).

Part of the ACMRS Ad Hoc Lecture Series

Lattie F. Coor Hall, Room 4403, ASU Tempe Campus