Fan fiction and the author in the early 17th century: The case of Sidney's "Arcadia"

  • Natasha Simonova University of Edinburgh
Keywords: Authorship, Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, Paratext, Philip Sidney


An analysis of the body of supplements and continuations written during the first half of the 17th century around Sir Philip Sidney's romance, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, may usefully be approached as a precedent for fan fiction practice. The incomplete nature of the Arcadia as published left a number of textual gaps that were filled by later writers, with many of their works coming to be included within subsequent reissues of the Arcadia itself. The texts discussed include William Alexander and James Johnstoun's supplements to book 3, Richard Belling's Sixth Booke, Anna Weamys's Continuation, Gervase Markham's English Arcadia, and an anonymous Historie of Arcadia in manuscript. Like contemporary fan fiction, these works adopt Sidney's characters and setting in order to fill apparent gaps, propel the story toward a happy ending, or recast it in an altogether different mold. Moreover, the paratextual materials surrounding these texts—including prefaces, dedications, and commendatory poems—provide important evidence about early modern conceptions of authorship, originality, and literary property.

Author Biography

Natasha Simonova, University of Edinburgh
PhD student in English Literature, working on prose continuations in the 17th and early 18th centuries.