Introduction: ‘The Ironicall Recreation of the Reader’
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the state of prose fiction in the period discussed in the book (1578–96). Particular attention is given to the idea of the authorial persona, and its multiple forms and associations, and to attitudes expressed towards fiction. The concept of literary imitation and the relevance of the idea of prodigality are also discussed. By focussing on one particular text, Thomas Nashe's preface to Robert Greene's Menaphon (1589), the chapter discusses Nashe's double edged tribute to Greene. While ostensibly praising the clarity of Greene's prose, Nashe leaves room for doubts about its cultural status, which are encapsulated in the phrase ‘the Ironicall recreation of the Reader’. The text highlights the uneasy role played by prose fiction in this period, and the many different literary modes jostling for attention in Greene's work. The authors of prose fictions often had high aspirations, but were obliged to write fast and create works with a wide appeal.
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