Our Scene is London
Ben Jonson's City and the Space of the Author
Routledge – 2008 – 176 pages
In this thought-provoking study Mardock looks at Ben Jonson's epigrams, prose, and verse satire in order to focus on Jonson's theatrical appropriations of London space both in and out of the playhouse. Through this critical analysis, the author argues that the strategies of authorial definition that Jonson pursued throughout his career as a poet and playwright were in large part determined by two intersecting factors: first, his complicated relationship with London's physical places and its institutional topography, and secondly--challenging commonplace assumptions about Jonson's anti-theatricality--the distinctly theatrical model of spatial practice that he brought to bear on his representation of the urban experience. Although much criticism has focused on Jonson's role in the emergence of modern definitions of authorship, most has focused on the material contexts of the book trade, on the politics of Jonson's patronage, or on Jonson's self-construction as a neoclassical and primarily textual poet. Mardock engages with all these considerations, but with a focus on the dramatic practices of urban space--a growing concern among scholars of early-modern drama--as a consistent factor in Jonson's authorial claims.
"From the accession of James I to 1616, argues Mardock, Jonson (1573-1637) pursued a project that had as much to do with the physical and social spaces of London as with his plays and their collection into his famous Folio. He shows how the playwright exerted much control over the stages and theaters where his plays were performed, and dealt extensively in his plays with how Londoners conceived their city, their experience of drama and its relation to their everyday lives, and how they understood space and the lived environment generally. -- Book News Inc., August 2008
"A thorough and extensive study of Jonson’s dramatic career, Mardock’s meticulous scholarship on Jonson’s royal pageants and plays offers a solid resource to those who are interested in Jonson’s theatrical production." -- Renaissance Quarterly
James Mardock is Associate Professor of English and Crowley Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the University of Nevada, Reno, US.