Writing with the Word
My current book project, Writing with the Word: The Imitation of Christ and Collaborative Authorship in Early Modern England examines early modern writers who made the bold, potentially blasphemous claim that God was their co-author. These writers developed a new form of authorship, which I call “mimetic participation,” that drew on Christian theology’s most important intersection of the human and the divine: “the Word of God,” or Christ and the scriptures. Many early modern Protestants believed “the Word” invited them to imitate Christ as an author and the Bible as a model text, and through imitation to participate in an act of divine authorship. Mimetic participation evolved as these writers combined metaphors drawn from collaborative book production with typology and claims of divine inspiration in order to define a form of authorship that reflected both divine and human participants. Tracing the development of this new, distinctly Protestant form of authorship, Writing with the Word reads literary texts in relationship to book history, historical theology, and sectarian politics to show how writers positioned themselves as both imitators of and collaborators with the divine. By charting the evolution of mimetic participation between the publication of John Bale’s editions of The Examinations of Anne Askew (1546-7) and John Bunyan’s The Holy War (1682), Writing with the Word helps us understand the audacity and complexity of early modern claims that human authorship could reflect divine collaboration. This project is currently being revised and is under consideration at a university press.
Rewriting the Renaissance
As I am finishing up work on Writing with the Word, I have begun to work on expanding my research into the adaptation of early modern texts. My second book, tentatively titled Rewriting the Renaissance, extends my work on both adaptation theory and authorship by examining how authors of popular novels and media, especially those working in “genre” fiction such as fantasy and science fiction, have engaged in “meta-adaptation” by consciously adapting early modern narratives that are themselves adaptations, and then commenting on the process of adaptation. My article on Jasper Fforde’s novel Something Rotten (published by College Literature in 2010) provides the starting point for this project: it shows how Fforde appropriates Shakespeare’s plays in ways that mimic Shakespeare’s own mode of appropriation, and in doing so attempts to disrupt the widespread image of Shakespeare’s originality. I argue that a recent surge in meta-adaptation that borrows from Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Milton signals that current conceptions of authorship and originality owe more to early modern notions of authorship than Romantic ones.
For a full list of my past research projects, see my CV.