✍ The Panizzi Lectures, 1998. Publishing Drama in Early Modern Europe [1999]

por Teoría de la historia

originalRoger Chartier’s is the fourteenth of the Panizzi Lectures inaugurated by D. F. McKenzie in 1985 and his is a fitting tribute to McKenzie, who died soon after this series was presented. Chartier is deeply concerned with theoretical issues and gives a very densely argued discussion of the relationship between performance and text in dramatic production. Beginning and ending with an evocation of Juan Luis Borges, Chartier observes in the first lecture that many ancient texts did not imply silent readers, and the classical ode, for example, must be seen as a ritual event. There is no author as such in this case, but the speaker, rather, is overwhelmed by the voice of the gods, sacred inspiration. The text cannot therefore be dissociated from the circumstances in which it is produced. Only afterwards, when the event is transformed into a poetic monument, is it necessary to assign it to an author and to create generic rules. Criticism comes much later, and “the three fundamental disciplines of the `literary institution’ (philology, literary history, hermeneutics) are thus set in place at the close of the trajectory leading from `event’ to `monument.'” For literary historians one of the main methodological problems–especially in the case of drama–is how to confront issues of orality when by nature performance is ephemeral and writing cannot fully record the event. Chattier suggests several means for dealing with this challenge including, perhaps most interestingly, the transformation of punctuation, that is the movement from oralized to grammatical punctuation, and he provides a detailed analysis, concluding like McKenzie before him, that “meanings are not therefore inherent but are constructed by successive interpretative acts.” In his second lecture Chartier examines the ways in which plays were transmitted in the early modern period and points out that dramatists often authorized printed versions of their texts in order to combat the inaccuracy of editions based on shorthand transcriptions at actual performances. In his third lecture he describes different conditions of performance and how these effect textual transmission. Printed editions, as he observes, could use their own devices–from engravings, stage directions, and punctuation–to convey something of the action of the play. Studying “bad editions,” moreover, gives us important information about differing encounters of the same text, “a negotiation between the different forms of the printed text and its own conditions of transmission and representation.” In the early modern period there was a “topos” of reluctance to print, but this was counterbalanced by the convention that the written text would restore the author’s real meaning which might have been violated by the circumstances of performance–the need to shorten running time in winter and so on. The movement from quarto to folio highlighted the developing importance of the author and the role of the book as mediator between audience and writer. On the other hand, publishers also used visual devices to identify sententiae which might be memorized to be used elsewhere, lines which might be regarded as rhetorical amplifications out of the context of the play itself. Finally, by analyzing the first known printed prompt book of Hamlet Chartier moves in a contrary direction from what has come before and shows how the printed page can teach us a great deal about the recreation of theatrical events in differing historical contexts. As Chartier concludes, in order to understand the mobility of publishing drama in early modern Europe it is necessary to intertwine case studies, close readings, and general reflections. In doing this in his lectures he has also succeeded brilliantly in his goal of mingling “bibliographical analysis, cultural history and literature.” This little volume is a tour de force, a superb example of the potential of the new bibliography, McKenzie’s sociology of the text. As read text it is dramatic in the extreme; this reviewer can only regret having missed the performances and I do wonder if, like Giles Barber’s fourth Panizzi lectures, they were accompanied by appropriate sound and fury, signifying something that has been lost in the subsequent printed form.

[James P. CARLEY. “Publishing Drama in Early Modern Europe, by Roger Chartier” (reseña), in Papers of The Bibliographical Society of Canada, vol. XXXIX, nº 1, 2001, pp. 101-103]