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'Tossing and turning your booke upside downe': The Trimming of Thomas Nashe, Cambridge, and scholarly reading

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Rebecca Hasler

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This article explores the distinctive culture of critical reading based around the University of Cambridge in the 1590s. Drawing upon new evidence that The Trimming of Thomas Nashe (1597) was produced by a Cambridge stationer for an audience of Cambridge scholars, it reconstructs the literary values of this community. The Trimming parodies Nashe's Have With You to Saffron‐Walden (1596). Its purported author – Richard Lichfield – draws upon his close reading of Have With You to attack Nashe by imitating his style. Similarly, the Parnassus Plays – which were performed at St John's College, Cambridge, between 1598 and 1601 – allude to the works of Nashe and Lichfield, and offer a comparable appraisal of contemporary literature. By unravelling the connections between Nashe, Lichfield, and the Parnassus Plays, this article demonstrates that some writers and stationers marketed their works to a specifically scholarly audience. These scholars used critical reading to reinforce a sense of community that was characterized by their perceived social and educational superiority to other readers, and that responded to their insecurities regarding the role of professional writers in the Elizabethan book trade.


Original languageEnglish
JournalRenaissance Studies
VolumeIn press
Early online date20 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Aug 2018

    Research areas

  • Thomas Nashe, Cambridge, Early Modern print, Parnassus Plays, Gabriel Harvey

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