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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In a landmark essay published in 1984, Stanley Fish offered a reading of Jonson’s non-dramatic works in which he argued that Jonson persistently sought to imagine an alternate economy of patronage in his poetry and prose; one in which the value of poet and patron were mutually and interactively defined, and the patronage relation was imagined to transcend the calculation and indiscrimination of the marketplace. In 1991, Katharine Eisaman Maus presented an analogous reading of Jonson’s dramatic satire as reliant on the idea of an alternate system of exchange which transcends the marketplace. While it is a critical commonplace to note Jonson’s hypocrisy in that regard—he adopted, after all, a remarkably systematic approach to circulating his works in the commercial economies he satirised—this essay questions whether we can really think of Jonson’s idealised model of patronage exchange as ‘alternate’ to that of the market at all. Specifically, it argues that Jonson’s patrons are pivotal in the poet’s attempts to recognise a new commercial reader—capable of recognising the value of his work amidst the dross of the Protean marketplace—and that Jonson’s writing to and about his patrons invariably traversed two interrelated economies at once.

Keywords: Patronage, Economy, Epigram, Satire, Moral Virtue, Seneca, Paratext, Print Market, Reader

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