Virgilian fandom in the Renaissance

Balaka Basu

University of North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Considered as fan works, early modern homages to, derivations from, and continuations of classical texts can help contemporary readers better understand the past and potential future of fan fiction as a queer, emotional, and affectionate investment in the universe of a text. Demonstrating that Sir Philip Sidney's queer, fractured Arcadia can be understood as fan fiction of Virgil's Eclogues shows how readers have always responded to the notion of beloved texts held in the creative commons with traditional fan practices such as subversive slash subtexts, inserted selves, feminine communities of reader-writers, and carefully orchestrated gift economies, whether in ancient Rome, Tudor England, or our own digital era.

[0.2] Keywords—Affect theory; Arcadia; Creative commons; Early modern fan fiction; Queer theory; Sir Philip Sidney; Slash; Virgil

Basu, Balaka. 2016. "Virgilian Fandom in the Renaissance." In "The Classical Canon and/as Transformative Work," edited by Ika Willis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 21.

1. Introduction

[1.1] We are living in an age when fan fiction has come out of the closet: it is discussed openly on prime-time television, in movies, in print media, and even in children's cartoons. One hallmark of this zeitgeist is the periodic recurrence of a particular conversation about the valuation of such "derivative" texts: some media producer becomes alarmed at the challenge posed by fan fiction to his or her ownership of the text and writes an impassioned screed condemning the incursion. Fan authors respond, vehemently arguing for readers' co-ownership of beloved texts and the right of creative response. More often than not, they look to the Renaissance for support. Shakespeare, they claim, was not original, and yet he is the most famous author ever to write in English; if his "fan works" are worthy of respect, why not others? What is Milton's Paradise Lost, they ask, except biblical fan fiction, filling a gap in Genesis? If these authors were writing today, might they not be posting their masterworks on the Internet? (bookshop, LiveJournal post, May 3, 2010; Jordan West, "None of This Is New: An Oral History of Fanfiction," November 2, 2014, The Mary Sue,; Lucy Gillam, "Shakespeare, Fanfic, and Creativity," [August 21, 1999,] The Fanfic Symposium,; Jamison 2013, 28). In rebuttal, we often hear that early modern textual practices were so different from our own that the comparison is unfair; after all, the Renaissance predates copyright and intellectual property law as we know them today.

[1.2] While this may be true, it remains fascinating that early modern writers themselves prefigured fan practices explicitly, as they explored the texts that made up their classical canon: Virgil and Homer, Horace and Theocritus, to name just a few. It seems useful, then, to embark on a reading of the derivations they produced in order to better understand their response to the classics. Sir Philip Sidney, immersed in the classics since childhood and an ardent supporter of their imitation by early modern authors, offers the perfect opportunity to examine classical transformations through a fannish lens, thus offering new and intriguing possibilities for understanding the history as well as the future of affective relationships with texts.

2. Fan fiction and its textual/sexual perversities

[2.1] What makes these 16th-century derivations, continuations, and homages fan works? Fan fiction requires its readers and writers to imagine the text as existing beyond the borders set by its original creator. I suggest, therefore, that to explore a text fannishly is to treat it as if it were "real"—with all the carnal reactions and affective investment that such a reality implies. From an academic perspective, however, to truly believe in the "reality" of fiction is irrational; to do so is often to be condemned as indiscriminately gullible, unintellectual, and grossly concerned with the material nature of the body and its desires. For instance, in a book on Shakespeare, Harry Berger unequivocally argues against the life and embodiment of characters beyond the borders of the text and thus against the belief in textual reality:

[2.2] Speakers don't have bodies, age, insomnia, corpulence, or illness unless and until they mention them, and when they do, it is usually in the service of some discourse…Speakers don't have childhoods unless and until they mention them. If, for example, John of Gaunt never mentions his youth, then he has and had no youth, no childhood whose critical events the analytical dialogue may recuperate and revise. (Berger 1997, 221)

[2.3] Berger, here, describes the act of fic writing—the ability to imagine past what the author has set down. Notwithstanding Berger's reading of Shakespeare, early modern writers often displayed just such an engagement with the texts they loved, as we will explore further in section 4.

[2.4] Belief in a beloved text's "reality" is aligned with the metaphorical equation of texts to people often found in discussions of reading and writing. Authors often analogize their texts as their children; readers often describe texts as friends. In using this language, authors sometimes claim ownership of their textual offspring in terms that seem more applicable to a master/slave relationship than a parent/child one (as if they were asking, "How dare someone else form a relationship with my child?"). Conversely, consider the opinion of television and film writer Joss Whedon, who, when asked about his attitude toward fan fiction, responded with a similar analogy but a different conclusion, saying, "All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet—it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you" (posting at Reddit, April 10, 2012, The text-as-person metaphor suggests that declaring ownership of a text may be tantamount to enslaving it. Even more importantly, however, understanding the text-as-person or text-as-body metaphor and the ensuing affective relationships between text and readers-turned-writers suggests that the fiction not only exists in story-space but also reaches out into the embodied spaces of "reality."

[2.5] Furthermore, understanding the text-as-person or text-as-body metaphor illuminates the sexual component of the critical distaste for fan fiction: such transgressive transformations are often compared to illicit sexual acts that disrupt socially approved familial and romantic relationships. Thus, fan writing can be read as a perverse act, regardless of its specific content, which nevertheless often reflects a queer ideology. As queer theorist Alexander Doty notes,

[2.6] Although the ideas that comprise "straightness" and "heterosexuality" are actually flexible and changeable over time and across cultures, these concepts have been—and still are—generally understood within Western public discourses as rather clearly defined around rigid gender roles, exclusive opposite sex desires, and such social and ideological institutions as patriarchy, marriage, "legitimate" child-bearing and rearing, and the nuclear, patrilineal family. And all of this has been/is placed in binary opposition to "homosexuality" or queerness. (Doty 1993, 107)

[2.7] Queerness, then, is defined by its lack of rigidness, exclusivity, and legitimacy. Not only are fan fictions deviant, multiplicitous, illegitimate, and unsanctioned texts, they are also the result of an erotic engagement between fan author and source text, and therefore fit into this ideology of sexual perversity and deviance.

3. The classics as canon

[3.1] A text that incites fan work generally demands that its readers collaborate in its construction. Such participation requires that these readers care about and invest in the text's narrative universe, an investment made more possible when a fiction exhibits the properties of what I call selvage: a coherent, firm, detailed, and consistent framework with unfinished edges that invite, provoke, and support the reader's response in the form of fan-made extensions, which make explicit what is only implicit within the source text. In fabrics, selvages are the unfinished yet structurally sound edges that were neither cast on nor bound off; they beg for continuation. Their very lack of neatness, as well as their incompletion, ironically allows the foundation of the previous material to remain firmly established; thus they illustrate how, in narratives as well as in fabric, openness within solid structure endorses continuation.

[3.2] The epic cycle presents some of the best examples of these kinds of texts, offering an immensely grand and seductive metanarrative. For instance, Homer's Iliad describes only one year of a 20-year war; though a complete story, it still begs for continuation. The next entry in the series, Homer's Odyssey (or Troy II: The Voyage Home), is a work that many claim surpasses its antecedent. Centuries later, Virgil composes his Aeneid; and both in the early modern period and today these three works are inevitably thought of together: one continuous tale that takes readers through the fall of Troy and the birth of Rome. However disparate in time and space its creators may have been, this unified story exists in readers' minds as a single, common fictional universe. In 1986, the classicist Charles Segal developed the term "megatext" to refer to such an overarching narrative, suggesting that it was only when the Greek myths were all thought to have taken place in a single world that they made sense. Now usually used to consider the common literary properties of science fiction, Segal's concept of a megatext prefigures that of the "verse" (or "'verse," with an apostrophe)—a postmodern conception of a fictional universe. A "verse" "is usually referred to with a show or franchise identifier (such as 'Buffyverse,' 'Whoniverse,' 'Potterverse,' etc.). It is a crafted combination of setting-elements that define the rules for how the world works and sometimes provides for sharing of characters and continuity across more than one series" ("The Verse," TVTropes, Within the "epicverse," then, multiple versions of characters and sequences of events appear, as different authors offer varying interpretations.

[3.3] For instance, the character of Aeneas has existed in numerous iterations and forms; like that of most megatextual heroes, his history is unstable, changing to greater or lesser degree with each new author, each translation into another medium, and of course with each new chronological reboot of the franchise. Aeneas of the Iliad is a minor character; Aeneas of the Aeneid is the last Trojan hero, the founding father of New Troy; Aeneas in the medieval Sir Gawain and the Green Knight only escaped the Greeks because he was a traitor to his homeland; and Aeneas in Christopher Marlowe's play Dido, Queen of Carthage is dishonorable in love. Details both small and large are altered throughout by the different authors, both intentionally, to suit each author's cultural zeitgeist, and also unintentionally, as the result of mistakes in continuity. While such mistakes are understandable, given the length of the narrative, reception of the new "canon" can be poor; the interesting part is how this dissatisfaction is expressed. When readers and fans point out that something about a particular narrative installment is wrong—for instance, the quality of Aeneas's character, or the personality of his lover, Dido—they are implicitly insisting that there exists a version that is right, in which they believe. While two readers might never agree on every aspect of this theoretically correct and intangible version, the accusation of falseness indicates, by its very existence, the possibility of autonomous, objective authenticity.

[3.4] These numerous, mutually contradictory versions, in fact, promote belief in this authentic ur-text. In her article "Archontic Literature," Abigail Derecho suggests that derivative—or, as she terms it, "archontic" (i.e., of the same Derridean archive)—writing can be positioned in the liminal space between Deleuze's actualized virtualities or potentialities and Glissant's concept of relation. She argues that to write or read or study these multiplicitous archontic texts "is to admit that the text is never stable, that virtualities inside source texts are perpetually in the process of being actualized, that between texts within a given archive, there is repetition with a difference, and that the interplay between texts can never be solidified or stilled" (Derecho 2006, 75). The idea that a text's instability—its wavering among its various iterations and reimaginings—can actually reinforce the stability of its imaginary space might seem counterintuitive at first. Yet it is the space between these deviant texts that provides fractures, which may act as doorways for fan writers to enter into the text, armed with their own deviant and perverse interventions.

4. Virgil's perverse entrances

[4.1] Turning away from Virgil's epic to examine his Eclogues, we find many opportunities for early modern fan writers to cut their own unauthorized entrances. The Eclogues, a series of ten connected poems, plays off the pastoral form earlier presented in the bucolic Idylls of Theocritus. However, while retaining the eroticism and sensuality of Theocritus's Sicilian poetry, Virgil adds notes of politics and prophecy to the Amoebaean singing of the shepherds, offering a sharply contemporary vision of the Augustan period as well as a foreshadowing of his epic plans for the Aeneid. He also offers a new setting for the pastoral: Arcadia, a term that has now become synonymous with the genre.

[4.2] In his famous article "Virgil and Arcadia," Richard Jenkyns suggests that the assumption, by subsequent writers, that all the Eclogues are set in Arcadia may be the product of a misreading. Six of the 10 poems (the first, second, third, fifth, sixth, and ninth) make no mention of Arcadia at all. The fourth, in which it appears only in passing, merely says, "Pan etiam, Arcadia mecum si iudice certet / Pan etiam Arcadia dicat se iudice victum" [Pan, too, if he were to compete with me with Arcadia as judge, / Pan, even with Arcadia as judge, would say he had lost]. Jenkyns persuasively argues that Arcadia is referenced here simply because it is the traditional home of the god Pan and should not be assumed to be the poem's setting—just as no one would assume that a poem was set in Cyprus if the island were mentioned in connection with Venus. He makes similar work of the Arcadian allusion in Eclogue VIII, which is likewise linked with Pan. Eclogue VII's mention of Arcadia is easily accounted for as well; in this poem, Virgil describes the shepherds with the words "Arcades ambo" [Arcadians both]. Jenkyns argues that "if some character in a book says 'I have just met two Englishmen,' we can be virtually certain that the scene is not laid in England. I would not say this in Surrey; I might well say it in Paris. When Meliboeus tells us that his friends are both Arcadians, the poet has indicated to us that we are somewhere other than Arcadia" (Jenkyns 1989, 26).

[4.3] Thus, it is only the final poem of the series, Eclogue X, in which Virgil imagines his friend Gallus singing his death song, that can definitively be said to take place in Arcadia. Here, the scenery begins to darken, as befits the subject matter: it is full of cold mountains, deserted caverns, chilly rocks; its beauty is wild and strange and empty; it chills us to the bone with its motifs of ice and stone. This is a darkness that Sidney develops in his own responses (Wilson-Okamura 2010, 66). While Eclogue II is unabashedly about the unrequited same-sex desire that the shepherd Corydon has for the scornful "master's pet" (i.e., a slave) Alexis—during the early modern period, this poem was thought to be a thinly veiled allusion to Virgil's own passion for the slave of his patron—Eclogue X is far more unstable and deviant. Here, in the voice of Gallus, we find a desire that shifts incessantly between the female Phyllis and the male Amyntas:

[4.4] Yet, shepherds of Arcady, you shall blazon my legend
Among your hills, for Arcady has no rival
In music. And oh! How softly my bones would nestle
If flutes of yours in the future voiced my sorrows
In love…
For surely the shape that bewitched me, whether of Phyllis,
Amyntas, or any so ever, would now be lying
Beside me among the willows, and under the vine loops.
(Virgil 1960, 58)

[4.5] To be in Arcadia, then, is to have love and longing that wander from object to object, regardless of gender, and it is this uncertainty that creates a space for later passionate poets to walk through and more fully inhabit.

5. Sir Philip Sidney as fan writer

[5.1] Philip Sidney's first contemporary biographer was his oldest friend: Fulke Greville. They attended the same school at Shrewsbury, and Greville writes, "I lived with him, and knew him from a child…His talk ever of knowledge, and his very play tending to enrich his mind" (Greville 1907, 6). Accounts of his school expenditures for February of 1565—when he was 11—show "a Virgile for Mr Philipp" (Wallace 2011, 410), and it is clear that he loved to apply himself to the literary analysis of the classics. A second contemporary biographer (and also a family friend), Thomas Moffett, goes on to detail how the young Sidney would study Latin and Greek at college until he fell ill. Both Greville and Moffett clearly paint a portrait of a person who is engulfed in the affective pleasure that reading may bestow.

[5.2] Indeed throughout his seminal piece of literary criticism, The Defense of Poesy, Sidney argues for the transportative, ravishing, childlike delight that can be found in fiction, saying, "So it is in men (most of which, are childish in the best things, til they be cradled in their graves) glad they will be to heare the tales of Hercules, Achilles, Cyrus, Aeneas" (Sidney 1595). Throughout the piece, he continues to hold Virgil—along with the rest of the classical canon—up as a model for living, writing, and creating. Writing, for Sidney, has a preternaturally mystic power:

[5.3] Among the Romanes a Poet was called Vates, which is as much as a diviner, foreseer, or Prophet, as by his conjoyned words Vaticinium, and Vaticinari is manifest, so heavenly a title did that excellent people bestowe uppon this hart-ravishing knowledge, and so farre were they carried into the admiration thereof, that they thought in the chanceable hitting uppon any of such verses, great foretokens of their following fortunes, were placed. Whereupon grew the word of Sortes Vergilianae, when by suddaine opening Virgils Booke, they lighted uppon some verse of his making. (Sidney 1595)

[5.4] While he quickly dismisses this as pagan superstition, he still allows for the possibility for a divine force animating the work of the writer or "maker." This, to me, exemplifies the "heart-ravishing" investment of affection and belief necessary to sustain fan writing.

[5.5] When Sidney begins his great pastoral romance, he sets it in the fictional world of Arcadia, first created by Virgil and then expanded further by the Italian author Jacopo Sannazaro. He is already writing into a selvage text. By writing in the mixed mode of romance (which combines prose and poetry), he is also pursuing a generic tradition that is particularly suitable for fan writing. In Inescapable Romance, Patricia Parker states that early modern "romance is characterized primarily as a form, which simultaneously quests for and postpones a particular end, objective, or object…When the 'end' is defined typologically, as a Promised Land or Apocalypse, 'romance' is that mode or tendency which remains on the threshold before the promised end, still in the wilderness of wandering, 'error,' or 'trial'" (Parker 1975, 5). The orthographic similarity of the terms "error" and "errant"—as in "knights errant"—is not accidental; a person in error can be thought of as a person who wanders in search of truth. Hence, the term errant has come to refer to the wandering of knights through a Renaissance landscape. Romance, then, is a form whose errant nature necessitates that it never ends, even as it concludes. What better way to understand how fan fiction—and its denial of ending and closure—are both produced by and themselves produce deviance and error?

[5.6] The central plot of Sidney's sprawling romance features the Arcadian royal family: the duke, Basilius, his wife, Gynecia, and their two daughters, Pamela and Philoclea, have retreated from their governmental obligations to a pastoral hideaway in hopes of avoiding a prophetic doom; and in doing so, only ensure it. The instruments of this prophecy are two foreign heroes, Musidorus and Pyrocles, who arrive in Arcadia and rapidly fall in love with the two princesses. They woo them through a series of disguises and mistaken identities, as is characteristic of pastoral romance. Chaos—both political and personal—ensues, only to be finally resolved with a series of last-minute reversals, reconciliations, and marriages. Such plurality implies an instability that is necessarily fluid, and thus necessarily disruptive of normative identities. It's no surprise, then, that sexual fluidity is inscribed in almost every aspect of the Arcadia, particularly in the gender-bending cross-dressing performed by Pyrocles. In an effort to win his princess, Philoclea, Pyrocles disguises himself as a woman called Zelmane in order to get close to her. His transformation is so complete that Philoclea's father falls in love with him; it is so incomplete that Philoclea's mother, Gynecia, falls in love with him; it is so complete that his dearest friend Musidorus is attracted by his beauty; it is so incomplete that this same Musidorus recognizes him by his voice. When he transforms into Zelmane, both he and Musidorus, and even the narrator, seem to become totally invested in the disguise. Pyrocles declares,

[5.7] Now farewell dear cousin (said he) from me, no more Pyrocles nor Daiphantus now, but Zelmane: Zelmane is my name, Zelmane is my title, Zelmane is the only hope of my advancement. And with that word going out, and seeing that the coast was clear, Zelmane dismissed Musidorus, who departed as full of care to help his friend, as before he was to dissuade him. (Sidney 1977, 151)

[5.8] After this, when Zelmane appears, the narrator refers to her as "she" without any indication that she is still Pyrocles.

[5.9] At first glance, it's tempting to see the deviance of this episode simply in the fact that a man is dressing up as a woman, and in the various permutations and undercurrents of homoeroticism that transpire as a result, such as the attractions between Musidorus and Pyrocles, between Pyrocles and Basilius, and between Zelmane and Philoclea. But there is another, more fundamental strain of perversity implicit in the fact that not just gender and sexuality, but identity itself is multiplicitous. This play against identity essentialism is in itself queer, and it applies to Arcadia as a whole, not Pyrocles alone.

[5.10] Sidney was dealing with his own ambiguous identities even as he wrote. Although his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella has many allusions to his love for Penelope Rich, the woman he had been meant to marry but hadn't, in his correspondence with figures such as his mentor Hubert Languet he responds with reserved silence when his correspondents display emotions that go beyond the borders of ordinary friendship. As Languet rebukes him for his lack of intensity, Sidney withdraws, but never completely. Likewise, Sidney's homosocial friendships—with the clearly homosexual Greville, for example—seem to far outstrip his heterosexual romances. Katherine Duncan-Jones states that "Sidney's marked lack of enthusiasm for marriage, combined with the fact that his two closest friends, Dyer and Greville, were both among that 'tiny handful' of Elizabethan aristocrats who never married, provokes the suspicion that male friendship was in some ways more congenial to him than heterosexual union." Indeed, some of his last poems, such as "Two Pastorals," "celebrate his love for Dyer and Greville…[giving] this triple friendship the preeminence normally accorded to heterosexual unions" (Duncan-Jones 1991, 240–41). It may be that the subversively slashy relationship between Pyrocles and Musidorus has its own subtext within the context of Sidney's life.

[5.11] Arcadia itself has a character that is implicitly nonstatic, and thus implicitly nonnormative. Sidney's narrative universe, in and of itself, is composed of a contested, fractured, and unstable space. His Arcadia is a fragmented and incomplete text, existing as it does in at least three forms: the "old Arcadia," or original version of the poem; the "new Arcadia," a revision and expansion of the old, unfinished at his death and comprising only the first three books; and the combined Arcadia, which comprises the three completed books of the newer version plus the fourth and fifth books of the older. As we've seen, Sidney was rewriting Virgil's Arcadia; not content with this, he decided to rewrite his own as well.

[5.12] As if these entrances into the text were not enough, Sidney also chooses to open it up even further for successive fan authors. He closes the old Arcadia with the following:

[5.13] But the solemnities of these marriages, with the Arcadian pastorals full of many comical adventures happening to those rural lovers, the strange story of the fair queens Artaxia of Persia and Erona of Lydia, with the Prince Plangus's wonderful chances, whom the latter had sent to Pyrocles, and the extreme affection Amasis, king of Egypt, bare unto the former, the shepherdish loves of Menalcas with Kalodoulous's daughter, and the poor hopes of Philisides in the pursuit of his affections, the strange continuance of Klaius's and Strephon's desire, lastly the son of Pyrocles named Pyrophilus, and Melidora the fair daughter of Pamela by Musidorus, who even at their birth entered into admirable fortunes, may awake some other spirit to exercise his pen in that wherewith mine is already dulled. (Sidney 2008, 361)

[5.14] In this final paragraph, Sidney lays out the bare bones of successive stories and versions, explicitly admitting that his characters have lives that extend outward beyond the borders of his book, in which other writers may wish to believe. He invites "other spirits" to "exercise their pens" by adding flesh to this prefabricated skeleton, and indeed they did so; early modern women fan writers took up his invitation. The first of these was his niece, Lady Mary Wroth, who continued the Arcadia as a Mary Sue fan fic in The Countess of Montgomery's Urania, inserting herself into her uncle's universe as the romance-reading heroine, Pamphilia, and the last was Anna Weamys, whose A Continuation to Sir Philip's Sidney's Arcadia prefigures the satisfying romantic conclusions beloved of many fic writers, as in it she ties up all Sidney's loose threads in a triumphantly domestic triple marriage.

[5.15] As well as imbuing his Arcadia with sexual instability and perversity, affective investment, and the properties of selvage, Sidney also participates in a gift economy that mirrors that of contemporary fandom. By dedicating his text to his sister, the countess of Pembroke—the full title is, in fact, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia—and referring to it as a gift that he hopes will while away some of her tedious hours with pleasure, and by the constant direct address to a presumed audience of a coterie of ladies, Sidney gains the fame and acclaim within a community of women that many fan writers seek, as they write gifts for Yuletide or other gift-exchange events.

6. A fannish renaissance

[6.1] The early modern period is often cited as a period of artifice, when poets and playwrights elegantly performed emotions that had little or no relevance to actual feelings. Although Wordsworth tells us that the sonnet is the "key" with which "Shakespeare unlocked his heart," we are often warned to resist such biographical readings. The "Will" of the sonnet sequence is fictional as much as real and is designed for the public sphere as much as for the private (if not more so). However, even critics such as Stephen Greenblatt have to concede that early modern poetry is, at least to some degree, the individual expression of personal emotion. Greenblatt reads Sir Thomas Wyatt's famous sonnet of renunciation, "Whoso List to Hunt," for instance, as the site of a tense negotiation between the public and the private self, through which Wyatt—with a "calculated recklessness" (Greenblatt 2005, 139)—can consign Anne Boleyn to the arms of Henry VIII, eliding with bitter poignancy the distance between poet and speaker, while still retaining plausible deniability and thus, incidentally, his head. But this deniability is only sustainable because, personal revelations notwithstanding, the poem may be read as a collaborative project, a translation of Petrarch's Rime 190, itself inspired by the reintroduction of classical texts to the Western world.

[6.2] Umberto Eco suggests the possibility of what seems to me to be a fannish approach to translation when he writes, "Perhaps there are source texts that widen out in translation, and the destination text enriches the source one, making it enter a new sea of intertexuality; and there are delta texts that branch out in many translations, each of which impoverishes their original flow, but which all together create a new territory, a labyrinth of competing interpretations" (Eco 2003, 102). Both rivers of translation—the one that widens and the one that subdivides into a delta—offer a space where fan interventions like Wyatt's can take place. In order to communicate a potentially dangerous sentiment safely, Wyatt must construct his own narrative within the confines of Petrarch's classically inspired plot: the doe that may not be caught, however tempting she may be, because Caesar has willed it so. For the translation to have sufficient fidelity, Wyatt must express himself in terms of Petrarch's narrative, using its story elements as his fictional vocabulary and grammar. Petrarch's narratives—like those of the classical canon—are simply available to him as fictional spaces that he is free to inhabit and use in order to express himself. The fictional, in the early modern period, can truly be said to blend into the real; Wyatt's reality is told in the space between his language and Petrarch's.

[6.3] In The Afterlife of Character, David Brewer identifies an analogous relationship between imaginative, fictional space and the real spaces of grazing land, tracing a connection between the proprietary enclosure of common land and an intellectual form of textual enclosure. He concludes that in early modern England

[6.4] characters in broadly successful texts were treated as if they were both fundamentally incomplete and the common property of all. Far from being the final word on the subject, the originary representation of these characters was, for readers engaged in these practices, merely a starting point—a common reference, but one perpetually inviting supplementation through the invention of additional details and often entirely new adventures. (Brewer 2005, 2–3)

[6.5] He argues that "in an economy of scarcity, literary property was conceived as a zero-sum game: a reader's gain must mean an author's loss. In an economy of abundance, on the other hand, no such dispossession [in either's favor] could occur…This way of thinking about literary property proceeded more through metaphor and analogy than rigorous argument. Perhaps the single most readily available metaphor was that of the traditional village commons" (Brewer 2005, 11). In the Tudor period, then, when the government sought to oppose enclosure through a series of acts designed to preserve commonly held land, authors felt justified in using earlier texts—similarly held in common—for fodder and did so without fear. In the 18th century, just as copyright laws began to be established, seeking to reserve ownership of texts to their originating authors and publishers, the English parliament began to enact the Inclosure Acts, which ended in enclosing for individual owners nearly 9,000 square miles of arable land, removing it from common use. Physical space and fictional space again seem to overlap.

[6.6] Digital technologies and their effect on our understanding of intellectual property and ownership are creating new spaces that may have effects on the power of reading and readers as fundamental as those of the printing press in the early modern era. Copyright and intellectual property law will eventually have to be redefined because of the exponentially expanding possibilities for replication and dissemination available online. The present moment may thus be seen as a time of innovation and of a free market of competing interpretations and variations. What will a future that builds upon this understanding of narrative—not a postmodern, but a postcanonical understanding—think of our contemporary moment? It might see it as yet another "Renaissance" of the "professional amateur," remembering that the amateur is—like Sir Philip Sidney, who preceded her—motivated only by love, and remembering the many trajectories from fannish love to professional profit that have been traced over the last 50 years. To the future, we might look a great deal like that previous Renaissance, a rebirth of classics repeated, remixed, and retold.

7. Works cited

Berger, Harry. 1997. Making Trifles of Terrors: Redistributing Complicities in Shakespeare. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Brewer, David. 2005. The Afterlife of Character, 1726–1825. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Derecho, Abigail. 2006. "Archontic Literature: A Definition, a History, and Several Theories of Fan Fiction." In Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, 61–78. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Doty, Alexander. 1993. Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Duncan-Jones, Katherine. 1991. Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Eco, Umberto. 2003. Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.

Greenblatt, Stephen. 2005. Renaissance Self-Fashioning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Greville, Sir Fulke. 1907. Life of Sir Philip Sidney. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Jamison, Anne. 2013. Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World. Dallas, TX: Smart Pop.

Jenkyns, Richard. 1989. "Virgil and Arcadia." Journal of Roman Studies 79:26–39.

Parker, Patricia. 1975. Inescapable Romance: Studies in the Poetics of a Mode. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Sidney, Sir Philip. 1595. The Defense of Poesy. Renascence Editions.

Sidney, Sir Philip. 1977. The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia. Edited by Maurice Evans. London: Penguin.

Sidney, Sir Philip. 2008. The Old Arcadia. Edited by Katherine Duncan-Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Virgil. 1960. The Pastorals of Vergil. Translated by Geoffrey Johnson. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.

Wallace, Malcolm William. 2011. The Life of Sir Philip Sidney. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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