Susanne Gürtner completed her Bachelor of Arts, as well as her Master of Arts, in British Literary Studies at the University of Regensburg. Her final thesis was concerned with Early Modern friend-ship theory and ideal kingship in Shakespeare. During her Bachelor, she spent a year at the Univer-ity of Reading with the Erasmus programme. She has worked as a research and teaching assistant at the department of British Literature, both in the position of SHK and WHK. Since 2020 she has held a position as lecturer and PhD student at the department of British Literature at the University of Regensburg. Her doctoral thesis is concerned with Early Modern education and the role of the London theatres in engaging with the humanist heritage of an emergent intellectual elite. Since spring 2020, she is an associate member of the GRK Metropolität in der Vormoderne.
- Early Modern humanism
- Early Modern political theory
- Early Modern Friendship theory
Humanism on the Early Modern Stage
This project aims at tracing the relationship between Early Modern theatre at the beginning of the 17th century and its own humanist heritage. It investigates the ways in which plays of this era reflected on – and were complicit in creating – a growing anxiety about the commodification and professionalisation of knowledge. The urban and, indeed, metropolitan social settings of these debates are the universities and Inns of Court where humanist drama was staged as well as, increasingly, the fixed playhouses of the London commercial theatre scene.
In the course of the 16th century, the influence of humanism established education as a viable avenue for advancement, effectively turning knowledge into a form of social capital. This new status of knowledge led to an increased emphasis on its mediality and fostered the fetishisation of the means of its production and transmission, as can be observed, for example, in the widespread practice of keeping commonplace books. These collections of sententiae and excerpts from Greek and Roman classics had their origin in humanist educational practices but increasingly turned into a way of collecting stylistic flourishes that could be used to embellish conversations and mark the collector’s social distinction.
This shift in the perception of knowledge was a topic vigorously debated in contemporary drama. The Jacobean city comedies, in particular, are littered with characters that are mocked for trying to get ahead by exhibiting their collections of learning. However, at the same time, the theatres themselves played a special role in the increasing commodification of knowledge. In metropolitan London, theatres, as public spaces available to a broad section of society, became increasingly important as places where knowledge concerning a vast number of topics, such as history, geography, and political theory, could be shared. However, by rendering “knowable” and discussable these specialised discourses, the theatres also created a potential space for the interrogation of the nature of power.
Main points of interest for this project will be how commercial renaissance drama was indebted to humanist theories and methods of teaching, the continued influence of university and grammar school education on the playwrights and their audiences, and the ways in which the commodification of knowledge and the perceived erosion of humanist ideals were reflected on by both scholars and playwrights. Areas of investigation will be early modern academic drama and its progression from the universities to the commercial stage, with a special focus on the Jacobean city comedies. These plays will be investigated in the context of early modern pedagogical writings and practices.
Proseminar ‘One Soul in Bodies Twain’ – Early Modern Friendship Discourses
Proseminar ‘Small Latin and Less Greek’ – Early Modern Pedagogy and Literary Production