Sullivan, Garrett A., Jr.

views updated

SULLIVAN, Garrett A., Jr.

PERSONAL: Male. Education: Davidson College, B.A.; Brown University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—Pennsylvania State University, 0116 Burrowes Bldg., University Park, PA 16802. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Educator and author. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, associate professor of English.


The Drama of Landscape: Land, Property, and SocialRelations on the Early Modern Stage, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1998.

Contributor to scholarly journals, including Studies in Romanticism, Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare Quarterly, and English Literary Renaissance.

SIDELIGHTS: An associate professor of English, Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr., has a particular interest in the development of theatre during the lifetime of Restoration playwright William Shakespeare. The Drama of Landscape: Land, Property, and Social Relations on the Early Modern Stage describes the impact the invention of "landscape" had on plays and playwrights. Beneath the neutral development of tools such as maps and surveys, Sullivan finds a deep conflict between medieval views of land as holdings and commons and the modern view of land as a commodity, which view arose during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He sees this conflict being played out in the plays of the time, which often resisted this new conception despite being financially dependent on the urban wealth that came from landlords buying and selling landed estates.

For Ronald W. Cooley, reviewing The Drama of Landscape for the Canadian Journal of History, the "great virtue of Sullivan's examination of land in early modern English drama is the thoroughness of its attention to historical scholarship, and the respect it demonstrates for the work of historians." As David Read commented in Modern Philology, the volume "belongs to one of the corollary movements of the 'cultural turn' in contemporary criticism: the effort to find common ground between the study of literature and the study of geography." Sullivan draws on this tradition to supplement his readings of plays by the great literary figures of the time, as well as by such lesser lights as the anonymous authors of several obscure plays. Many of the era's playwrights harked back to a more pastoral time of feudal protections and obligations, in contrast to what they viewed as the harsh new realities. They also embraced parochialism and local diversity in contrast to modernization and standardization. As Cooley noted, "This is where Sullivan's book is at its best—where it communicates the powerful appeal of the local and the customary without romanticizing. After all, early modern defenders of tradition, deference and mutual obligation were quite capable of greed and partiality, and advocates of 'improvement' in land use and social conduct were sometimes sincerely interested in the welfare of their neighbors."

In his book Sullivan also explores the growing conflict between highways and estates, between freedom of movement and property rights. This conflict often found its way onto the stage via the characters of the vagabond, a figure who could be alternately condemned or romanticized, and the more violent highwayman. Other new or newly prominent characters included the absentee landlord and the on-site estate steward, the latter who could be a hero helping local beggars or a villain cheating master and tenant alike. He also explores the spread of industry beyond the old city, with its time-honored guild system, into the relatively lawless world of the suburbs. Altogether, The Drama of Landscape "is important for its informational wealth and its analytic subtlety . . . affording a truly bountiful array of insights into early modern spatial production and imagining," concluded Shakespeare Studies contributor John Gillies, dubbing the book "a genuine work of exploration."



Canadian Journal of History, April, 2000, Ronald W. Cooley, review of The Drama of Landscape: Land, Property, and Social Relations on the Early Modern Stage, p. 135.

Choice, November, 1999, G. R. Wasserman, review of The Drama of Landscape, p. 542.

Modern Philology, August, 2001, David Read, review of The Drama of Landscape, p. 92.

Renaissance Quarterly, autumn, 2000, Scott Cutler Shershow, review of The Drama of Landscape, p. 931.

Shakespeare Studies, autumn, 2000, John Gilles, review of The Drama of Landscape, p. 25.

Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, spring, 2000, Meredith Anne Skura, review of The Drama of Landscape, p. 355.*

About this article

Sullivan, Garrett A., Jr.

Updated About content Print Article