The basic purpose of this book is to explore how witchcraft, and disorderly women more generally, were represented musically and textually in early modern England, in particular in broadside ballads
In effect, the salient features of the broadside ballad
world are most strongly realised through convention and commonplace, and those areas that attract repeated attention do so for a reason.
Sufficient numbers of prints and pamphlets, newsbooks and almanacs, broadside ballads
and chapbooks are extant to invite such investigation.
The ballad in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was less a stable form than an evolving discourse-an overlapping assembly of ballad collections and antiquarian scholarship that gathered together metrical romances, broadside ballads
, ballad romances, hymns, lays, ballad parodies, and lyrical ballads that variously expanded and chastened the idea of the ballad.
Some of these ballads can be traced to English and Scottish models, while others are American in origin, though clearly patterned after British traditional and broadside ballads
One such item is a broadside ballad
, dated about 1830, on the topic of shoplifting among middle class women.
The broadside ballad
, as a form that was both sung to the audience and bought for household consumption, fits into an intermediate stage in popular literacy, a view supported by the researches of Margaret Spufford and Tessa Watt.
This conservatism, particularly in the broadside ballad
, had long existed in harmony with a poetics of eroticism and burlesque.
This is evidenced in my own early book, Cultural Aesthetics: Renaissance Literature and the Practice of Social Ornament (1991), the collection Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture, edited by Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass (1996), my later edition (co-edited with Simon Hunt), Renaissance Culture and the Everyday (1998), and the ever-growing online English Broadside Ballad
Archive (EBBA), http://ebba.
Scarborough Fair is examined using the methodology introduced, as well as a 1597 ayre by John Dowland, a broadside ballad
from 1811, and a contemporary song by Asian Dub Foundation.
As a result, it practices a kind of hyper-democratizing: anecdote, poem, broadside ballad
and statute exist side-by-side as equally legitimate sites in which patterns of power are enmeshed.
In Gaskell's Mary Barton, one of Jackson-Houlston's clearest and most persuasive examples, a quotation from a Lancashire broadside ballad
, "The Oldham Weaver," omits a stanza describing an angry exchange between the weaver and his master.
We have long moved beyond the binary opposition of the primacy of the printed broadside ballad
over oral transmission, or vice versa (though that doesn't prevent two authors in the present volume from referencing Child's dismissal of broadsides as 'veritable dung-hills'), and this collection reveals the complexity of the relations that exist between them.
They were as likely to adopt the formal characteristics of a broadside ballad
or a theatrical monologue as any more conventionally literary kind of poetry.
The topics include the Benedictines and the press in about 1470-1550, transcription and English antiquity in the age of print, the broadside ballad
as song, and the scribal culture of the Marian Martyrs.