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Department of English Language and Literature

  • Practicing the City: Early Modern London on Stage

Nina Levine publishes "Practicing the City: Early Modern London on Stage"

This new book explores how the commercial theater operated as a medium as well as a model for urban experience in the burgeoning metropolis of early modern London

Nina Levine, Professor of English, has published Practicing the City: Early Modern London on Stage with Fordham University Press (2016). In late-sixteenth-century London, the commercial theaters undertook a novel experiment, fueling a fashion for plays that trafficked in the contemporary urban scene. But beyond the stage’s representing the everyday activities of the expanding metropolis, its unprecedented urban turn introduced a new dimension into theatrical experience, opening up a reflexive space within which an increasingly diverse population might begin to “practice” the city. In this, the stage began to operate as a medium as well as a model for urban understanding.

Practicing the City traces a range of local engagements, onstage and off, in which the city’s population came to practice new forms of urban sociability and belonging. With this practice, Levine suggests, city residents became more self-conscious about their place within the expanding metropolis and, in the process, began to experiment with new forms of collective association. Reading an array of materials, from Shakespeare and Middleton to plague bills and French-language manuals, Levine explores urban practices that push against the exclusions of civic tradition and look instead to the more fluid relations playing out in the disruptive encounters of urban plurality.

“Practicing the City makes a substantial, original contribution to the expansion of our understanding of the interrelation of London and early modern drama in light of the unprecedented urbanization that occurred in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.”

  -James R. Siemon, Boston University

“Instead of choosing a single, limiting, dominant metaphor or thematic element to organize the book, Nina Levine manages the difficult task of weaving together a range of organizing principles across the chapters. That diversity of topics creates a multifaceted argument that matches early modern London, its politics, its culture, and its plays in breadth and complexity.”

  -Adam Zucker, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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