The Other Exchange


The Other Exchange

Women, Servants, and the Urban Underclass in Early Modern English Literature

Denys Van Renen

Early Modern Cultural Studies Series

282 pages


March 2017


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Prompted by commercial and imperial expansion such as the creation of the Bank of England in 1694 and the publication and circulation of Ben Jonson’s The Staple of News in 1626, rapidly changing cultural, economic, and political realities in early modern England generated a paradigmatic shift in class awareness. Denys Van Renen’s The Other Exchange demonstrates how middle-class consciousness not only emerged in opposition to the lived and perceived abuses of the aristocratic elite but also was fostered by the economic and sociocultural influence of women and lower-class urban communities.

Van Renen contends that, fascinated by the intellectual and cultural vibrancy of the urban underclass, many major authors and playwrights in the early modern era—Ben Jonson, Richard Brome, Aphra Behn, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Eliza Haywood, and Daniel Defoe—featured lower-class men and women and other marginalized groups in their work as a response to the shifting political and social terrain of the day. Van Renen illuminates this fascination with marginalized groups as a key element in the development of a middle-class mindset.

Author Bio

Denys Van Renen is an assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.



"Van Renen’s study is a welcome addition to the existing studies of early modern culture and society and will open new doors into studying the marginal, the silenced and the invisible in culture and in literature."—Iman Sheeha, Review of English Studies

"A thoughtful, useful book that outlines the rise of middle class ideologies, as they pertain to certain texts (drama and novels) written over a 100-year period."—Michael Boecherer, English: Journal of the English Association

"The Other Exchange offers an ambitious investigation of socioeconomic tensions and conflicts as they played out in drama and fiction from the early seventeenth century to the early eighteenth. In this span of time, England's capitalist economy was codified in ways that, as Van Renen reminds his readers, enmeshed the nation in networks of global commerce, reoriented its built environment in relation to the natural world, and generated new literary forms."—Elizabeth Rivlin, Renaissance Quarterly

“This subtle and perceptive book shakes many of our assumptions about early modern comic writing. Van Renen reads these texts as exchanges between the elite and the ‘formidable and fluid counterpublic’ of women and the poor, and does so convincingly.”—Matthew Steggle, professor of English at Sheffield Hallam University

 “Van Renen cogently elucidates the complex means by which the working poor provide a crucial template for the conditions of modern capitalism. His fascinating argument and nuanced readings make this book vital to any study of the early modern period.”—Rajani Sudan, professor of English at Southern Methodist University and author of The Alchemy of Empire: Abject Materials and the Technologies of Colonialism

“Remarkable in its thematic and chronological breadth, The Other Exchange productively balances close formalist analysis of its texts with a thorough critical and historical contextualization. The Other Exchange offers an extremely valuable contribution to discussion of early modern London, economic thought, vagrancy, and internal colonialism, among other issues.”—Mark Netzloff, associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and author of England’s Internal Colonies: Class, Capital, and the Literature of Early Modern English Colonialism

Table of Contents

Introduction: Early Modern Multitudes
1. Printing English Identity in Jonson’s The Staple of News and Brome’s The English Moore
2. Representing the Town on Brome’s Stage
3. Reanimating the Theater and English Social Life in Behn’s The Rover and The City Heiress
4. Warfare and Its Assault on English Rural Life in Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer
5. Vagabonds and the “Restoration” of London in Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year
6. Fiction and Finance in Haywood’s The British Recluse
Epilogue: Jonathan Swift and the End of Labor

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