A Monster with a Thousand Hands makes visible a figure that has been largely overlooked in early modern scholarship on theater and audiences: the discursive spectator, an entity distinct from the actual bodies attending early modern English playhouses. Amy J. Rodgers demonstrates how the English commercial theater's rapid development and prosperity altered the lexicon for describing theatergoers and the processes of engagement that the theater was believed to cultivate. In turn, these changes influenced and produced a cultural projection—the spectator—a figure generated by social practices rather than a faithful recording of those who attended the theater. The early modern discursive spectator did not merely develop alongside the phenomenological one, but played as significant a role in shaping early modern viewers and viewing practices as did changes to staging technologies, exhibition practices, and generic experimentation.
While audience and film studies have theorized the spectator, these fields tend to focus on the role of twentieth-century media (film, television, and the computer) in producing mass-culture viewers. Such emphases lead to a misapprehension that the discursive spectator is modernity's creature. Fearing anachronism, early modern scholars have preferred demographic studies of audiences to theoretical engagements with the "effects" of spectatorship. While demographic work provides an invaluable snapshot, it cannot account for the ways that the spectator is as much an idea as a material presence. And, while a few studies pursue the dynamics that existed among author, text, and audience using critical tools sharpened by film studies, they tend to obscure how early modern culture understood the spectator. Rather than relying exclusively on historical or theoretical methodologies, A Monster with a Thousand Hands reframes spectatorship as a subject of inquiry shaped both by changes in entertainment technologies and the interaction of groups and individuals with different forms of cultural production.
Introduction. Discursive Iterations/Fearful Symmetries
Chapter 1. Toward a Theory of Discursive Spectatorship
Chapter 2. The Blood of the Muses: Violent Spectatorship and Authorial Response in The Knight of the Burning Pestle
Chapter 3. The Book of Praises: The Spectator as Reader in Shakespeare's Romances
Chapter 4. The Language of Looking: Making Senses Speak in Jonsonian Masque
Epilogue. The Discursive Spectator and the Question of History