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The order of the book: materiality, narrative and authorial voice in John Dowland's

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In 1597 John Dowland made his self‐authorised print debut with The First Booke of Songes or Ayres. Many of the songs in the collection were, as Dowland indicates, ‘ripe inough by their age’, having ‘already grac't’ the two universities. The songs, and their poetic texts independent of musical setting, had had various pre‐print histories and would have invited specific contextually situated interpretations. Gathered together, set and ordered by Dowland in his printed collection the songs might attract alternative, though perhaps complimentary, readings informed by their new configuration and materiality. This article seeks to explore the ways in which the inclusion and positioning of these songs in a printed book might have impinged on the ways in which they were read and understood by contemporaneous readers, singers and listeners. The songs will be considered, firstly, through their framing by the prefatory pages of the book, and the various agendas these pages express – not least, that of the named author – and, secondly, from the perspective of their ordering and the overarching narrative it implies, the musical and textual interrelationships they evoke and their musical, poetic and political references to the world outside the pages of the book that might have also have informed interpretations of the songs as part of a printed collection.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Newcastle University

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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