Penniless? Project

Nashe’s experience of England in the 1590s would have been one of increasing food prices, and a world in which the rich appeared to get richer, and the poor got poorer. While the social certainties of the past seemed to be crumbling, that decade also saw an explosion of literature -with printed books and a newly professionalised theatre providing opportunities for work to a generation of recent graduates like Nashe.

Britain today is an increasingly precarious place, with a cost of living crisis affecting larger swathes of the population. Many of us aren’t used to precarity - a condition of uncertainty and exposure which is as emotional as economic. But to the average Elizabethan it was the norm. Nashe in particular explored what it felt like to be living on the edge, writing and published ceaselessly through the turbulent 1590s. In this follow on project, we are using ‘Pierce Penilesse’, his satire on the seven deadly sins of Elizabethan England, as a jumping off point to explore ways of thinking about what precarity meant then, and what it means now.

The follow-on funding project “Penniless? Thomas Nashe and Precarity in Historical Perspective” (Jun 2022-Feb 2023) is co-ordinated by Prof. Cathy Shrank (Sheffield), Dr. Kate De Rycker (Newcastle), and Dr. Archie Cornish (Sheffield),and will collaborate with freelancers in the creative industries to produce a zine, a performance, a podcast series, and a webinar, and a blog. The project will also collect and curate oral testimonies about the employment experiences in the twenty-first century.

We will be building up a bank of resources from this project on this page, but in the meantime, you can read about our progress in our blog, here.