Narrative Structure and Reader Formation in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania  book cover
1st Edition

Narrative Structure and Reader Formation in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania

ISBN 9780367881955
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
266 Pages

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Book Description

Narrative Structure and Reader Formation in Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania offers the first systematic formal and thematic analysis of Wroth’s Urania in its historical context and explores the structural means by which Wroth fashions her readership. The book thus has a dual focus, at once on narrative art and reader formation. It makes two original claims, the first being that the Urania is not the unorganized accumulation of stories critics have tended to present it as, but a work of sophisticated narrative structures i.e. a complex text in a positive sense. These structures are revealed by means of a circumspect narratological analysis of the formal and thematic patterns that organise the Urania. Such an analysis furthers our understanding of the reading strategies that Wroth encourages. The second claim is, then, that through the careful structuring of her text Wroth seeks to create her own ideal readership. More precisely, the formal and thematic structures of the Urania engage with readers’ expectations, inviting them to reflect on prominent thematic issues and respond to the text as what early modern prefaces term "good" readers. Combining narratological methods with a generic perspective and taking into account the work of book historians on early modern reading practices, this monograph provides a new approach to the Urania, supplementing the typically gender- or (auto)biographically-oriented interpretations of the romance. Moreover, it contributes to the study of early modern (prose) narrative and romance and exemplifies how historically contextualised narratological analysis may yield new insights and profit research on reading strategies.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures



Chapter 1: Entering the Urania through the Frontispiece

Abundance versus Lack

Reading the Lack of Prefatory Material

Reading the Abundance of the Frontispiece


Chapter 2: Narrator and Narratee: Guidance, Critical Sympathy and Discretion

The Gender-Neutral Narrator

Textual Guidance: Orientation and Cohesion

Sympathy and Criticism

The Art of Narration and Discretion

The Narratee

The Published First Part vs. the Manuscript Continuation

Chapter 3: Narrative Levels and Strands: Emotional Immediacy, Proliferation and the Promise of Closure

Narrative Levels

Narrative Strands

The Published First Part vs. the Manuscript Continuation

Chapter 4: Space and Displacements: Multiple Reading Modes and Tensions of Meaning

Reading Space and Settings

Spatial Movements and Travel Patterns

Chapter 5: Recurring Themes and Plots: Textually Inscribed Reflection and Debate

Recurring Themes and Plots

The Quest for Identity

Conquering and Defending a Throne

Love Matters


Male Infidelity


Supporting and Contrasting Inset Tales

Conclusion: Interpretive Freedom vs. Closure – The Story of Drusio and Isabella



Primary Sources

Secondary Sources


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Rahel Orgis is a postdoctoral researcher on behalf of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland and coordinator for the English doctoral programme of CUSO (Conférence universitaire de Suisse occidentale).


"Rahel Orgis's Narrative Structure and Reader Formation in Lady Mary Wroth's "Urania" marks a milestone on two fronts. It sets up an inductive narratological procedure for appreciating Wroth's experimental design in the complex discursive terrain of Urania and thereby makes significant advances over classical narratological theory (Gérard Genette, et al.) as equipment for reading early modern prose romances. Orgis's careful attention to the interplay between narrative levels and strands and geographic mappings of "travel patterns" (p. 10) in Urania provides readers with an enormously helpful way to understand the narrative tactics underpinning Wroth's brand of romance-inflected cosmopolitanism. (261)." -- Gallagher, Lowell. "Recent Studies in the English Renaissance." SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 58 no. 1, 2018

"The book is very well researched, extremely rigorous in its analysis, and methodologically consistent. The book also opens up genuinely new paths for the study of Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania, as well as other prose texts of the early modern period. Rahel Orgis’s work will be particularly useful for developing new critical narratives around women writers of the early modern period. Indeed, Orgis’s appendices alone – a series of detailed charts which lay out the narrative structure of Urania from different perspectives – will be of great value to early modernists specializing in Wroth or early modern romance." -- SAMEMES Early Career Book Prize, Sep. 2018