Laura Rosenthal publishes new book WAYS OF THE WORLD
July 01, 2021 English
Ways of the World explores cosmopolitanism as it emerged during the Restoration and the role theater played in both memorializing and satirizing its implications and consequences.
This spring, Laura J. Rosenthal released her newest work with Cornell Press: Ways of the World: Theater and Cosmopolitanism in the Restoration and Beyond. Rooted in the Stuart ambition to raise the status of England through two crucial investments—global traffic, including the slave trade, and cultural sophistication—this intensified global orientation led to the creation of global mercantile networks and to the rise of an urban British elite who drank Ethiopian coffee out of Asian porcelain at Ottoman-inspired coffeehouses. Restoration drama exposed cosmopolitanism's most embarrassing and troubling aspects, with such writers as Joseph Addison, Aphra Behn, John Dryden, and William Wycherley dramatizing the emotional and ethical dilemmas that imperial and commercial expansion brought to light.
Altering standard narratives about Restoration drama, Laura J. Rosenthal shows how the reinvention of theater in this period—including technical innovations and the introduction of female performers—helped make possible performances that held the actions of the nation up for scrutiny, simultaneously indulging and ridiculing the violence and exploitation being perpetuated. In doing so, Ways of the World reveals an otherwise elusive consistency between Restoration genres (comedy, tragedy, heroic plays, and tragicomedy), disrupts conventional understandings of the rise and reception of early capitalism, and offers a fresh perspective on theatrical culture in the context of the shifting political realities of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain.