Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hannah Lavery: "Exchange & Reciprocation"

Hannah Lavery
University of Sheffield

Exchange and Reciprocation in Nashe’s ‘Choise of Valentines’ (c. 1592)

3 comments:

Siobhan Collins said...

I very much enjoyed your article. Nashes’ employment of the genre of the “impotency poem” to satirize and reinterprete social relationships in the late-sixteenth century is fascinating. I have a couple of related questions: You mention that the process of manuscript circulation is significant to the development of this genre. Could you expand a little further on this point? Print’s emphasis on impersonal transaction and financial exchange is often seen as a move away from the mutual obligations and reciprocations associated (at least symbolically) with manuscript circulation. I’m wondering if the writer’s situation that Nashe figures as a form of prostitution within a one-sided power relation could be linked to the increasing commercialism of print culture? Do you know if Nashe was concerned with how print, as a new writing technology, impacted upon the traditional concepts of friendship you mention?

Hannah Lavery said...

The adoption of the manuscript system is indeed part of the interpretative framework for this poem. My reading considers the social relationships that are constructed to allow the satire to be effected. By consulting the extant manuscripts of this poem I was able to develop this idea. For instance, one of these is written partly in code. However, it is clear that this is not to censor the 'pornography' of the text, as the choice of words and phrases to code are rarely the most 'pornographic'. Indeed, in most cases the code actually heightens the perceived obscenity of the line, due to this visual concealment of term! Rather, this is related to the idea of limiting or controlling 'access', which links to the concepts of reading as part of the MS system. To engage in the process of reading links to the wider idea of reader identity and access as it is figured in the poem itself.

Your point about a possible commentary on the commercialism of print culture is intriguing... Certainly the focus on financial exchange would be useful in this, and Nashe's struggle for regular or prolonged financial backing is a well-known element of his biography.

stella achilleos said...

The 'impotency poem' does indeed carry an intriguing set of implications. You refer to Nashe's 'Choise' as forming part of a longer tradition. I was wondering whether you could elaborate a bit on that. Ovid and Petronius of course provide well-known classical examples, while the resurgence of the genre in early modern England is more often associated with Restoration poets (e.g. Rochester and Behn). Could you expand a little on how the tradition was developed in the sixteenth and early-seventeenth century?