Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Bodden, M. C.
The role of the early modern novella in the formation of Jacobean drama has been consistently understated in literary criticism. Source study and independent criticism of Elizabethan prose fiction, the two most common areas in which these novellas are discussed, are as quick to reference these works as they are to dismiss them. Using a primarily intertextual lens, it is the purpose of this dissertation to expose the rich relationship between early modern English, Italian, and Spanish novellas and their Jacobean dramatic counterparts. Specifically, my dissertation seeks to examine the deep thematic influences of the early modern novella on Jacobean drama, influences that go well beyond plot source contribution, focusing not strictly on the one-to-one relationship of novella X to play Y but on the interrelationships between the development of specific themes in both the novellas and the plays. By looking at the early modern novella and Jacobean drama in conjunction with one another, rather than in separate studies, as has been done previously, or in works of source criticism, where the novellas and plays have been looked at together but to different ends, this dissertation provides a clearer picture of exactly how these disparate but related genres speak to one another.
The argument is built around three salient themes that seem to arise consistently within and crossing over between these two genres — interiority versus theatricality/performativity, passion versus reason, and marriage versus the single state — and is arranged, by chapters, around these specific themes. By dealing with a group of novellas and plays, rather than a single novella-play relationship, this dissertation seeks to reveal patterns within the larger interaction of the early modern prose novella and Jacobean drama, patterns which can only be located by looking at several different novella-drama relationships. These patterns reveal, in turn, a richness of interconnectivity that I believe single author- or text-focused intertextual research cannot reach. Ultimately, by arguing for the novellas’ significant contributions to Jacobean dramatic works beyond the superficial levels of “textual borrowing” and “plot source material,” this dissertation reveals the “complexity and sophistication” of the early modern novella in its own right.