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Making the Caxton Brand: An Examination of the Role of the Brand Name in Early Modern Publishing

Martin, Jonathan (2010) Making the Caxton Brand: An Examination of the Role of the Brand Name in Early Modern Publishing. MPhil thesis, University of York.

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This dissertation explores the utility of applying the concept of the “brand” to literary and biographical studies via an exploration of the career of England’s first printer of vernacular texts - William Caxton (active c.1473-1492). Presently, the brand is generally conceived as an interface between commerce and culture. Recent work by Naomi Klein and Celia Lury has suggested that the goal of the brand is to engender a lifestyle – or, rather, to become a culture unto itself. Generally, perhaps rightly, this view arouses considerable suspicion about the role of branding in everyday life. As tension between Art and Commerce (articulated by Pierre Bourdieu in The Rules of Art) is present in many aspects of literary criticism (particularly biography), it is common to find that figures like William Caxton often have their non-commercial activities marginalized on account of their business practices. My work seeks to address this problem by rejecting the either/or tension between Art and Commerce in favor of a new, more inclusive model centered on the brand. The brand, in contrast to the current, dominant paradigm, is a multi-faceted entity that operates in aesthetic and commercial spheres simultaneously. By using the brand as a model for biographical and historiographical studies, we are able to ascribe both of these aspects to an individual without negating the whole. As Michael Saenger has observed: “The idea of an artless publisher may be as much of a myth as the idea of a noncommercial artist.” Accordingly, I recognize the necessary interconnectedness of artistic and commercial production, and propose that we approach Caxton (and his legacy) as we would explore the evolution of any other brand. By addressing a figure, or a body of work, as a brand, we are free to remove the weight of critical wrangling over Art and Commerce, and, instead, focus on the interconnected nature of literary and commercial activities without prejudice. It is hoped that, in so doing, we will allow for more complete studies of literary publishers and printers like William Caxton.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Mr Jonathan Martin
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2012 11:03
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2596

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