Beaumont and Fletcher's Rhodes: Early Modern Geopolitics and Mythological Topography in The Maid's Tragedy
Koç University, Istanbul
Reid, Lindsay Ann. "Beaumont and Fletcher's Rhodes: Early Modern Geopolitics and Mythological Topography in The Maid's Tragedy". EMLS 16.2 (2012): 4. URL: http://purl.org/emls/16-2/reidrhod.htm
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The fame of these Turks togither with their fortune, thus daily encreasing, and the mightie Empire of the Sarasins as fast declining: which vnder their Chaliphes the successors of the false prophet Mahomet, hauing in lesse than the space of two hundred yeeres, ouerspread not onely the greatest part of ASIA and AFRIKE, euen vnto GADES and the pillers of Hercules: but also passing ouer that strait, had ouerwhelmed almost all SPAINE, and not there staying, but passing the Pyrenei had pearsed euen into the heart of FRANCE, and diuers other parts of Christendom· as namely, ITALY, SICILY, the famous Iland of the RHODES, with many others of the MEDITERRANEAN.Should, then, Rhodes' role in Mediterranean geopolitics affect how we approach The Maid's Tragedy? It seems clear that for Beaumont and Fletcher, as well as for their original audiences, references to the play's Rhodian setting would have been inextricably linked to such grander narratives of Mediterranean warfare and Ottoman expansionism. Indeed, Rhodes held a prominent and memorable position in such narratives, for, as Hakluyt's work suggested, “since the creation of the world…so great quantity [of artillery] was neuer bent and layed before any towne as hath bene against Rhodes at this siege.”
remember that, to Europe's shame,It is thus that the national crisis in Malta is presented against the backdrop of larger Mediterranean conflicts and exiles, specifically the Knights of St John's historical loss of Rhodes to Ottoman invaders. Marlowe's Christian Malta, then, both reflects and continues the crisis of the besieged island of Rhodes, and the sense of ongoing warfare for control of Mediterranean islands does not disappear at the end of the play. Rather, the Ottoman threat with which the play opened still remains in the final scene.
The Christian isle of Rhodes, from whence [the Maltese Christians] came,
Was lately lost, and [they] were stated here
To be at deadly enmity with Turks. (2.2.30-3)
When [Amintor] was a boy,The Rhodes of The Maid's Tragedy is a paranoid place, and justifiably so, for the “soft and silken wars” (1.1.42) at home prove just as lethal as the unnamed enemies that Melantius has been combating abroad. This sense of paranoia within Rhodes emerges clearly in the play's second scene, which begins with Calianax's aggravated exclamation: “Diagoras, look to the doors better, for shame! You let in all the world, and anon the King will rail at me!” (1.2.1-2). The gravity of the ensuing discussion between Calianax and his servant is striking, considering that the men are essentially working as ushers for a court masque. “I shall never keep them out” (1.2.11) Diagoras worries, presumably with reference to the Rhodian riff-raff who might want to crash Evadne and Amintor's wedding festivities. When Melantius requests that the men “Open the door” (1.2.25) so that the military hero (and an innocuous lady friend) might attend the nuptial celebrations, he is first interrogated by Diagoras—who issues the stern warning “I hope your lordship brings no troop with you; for, if you do, I must return them” (1.2.28-9)—and then is very nearly denied entry altogether by his long-time antagonist Calianax.
As oft as I returned (as, without boast,
I brought home conquest) he would gaze upon me,
And view me round, to find in what one limb
The virtue lay to do those things he heard. (1.1.51-5)
MelantiusThe play makes it abundantly clear that whoever controls Rhodes' fortifications controls its political destiny. Moreover, as Melantius clarifies, for a murderer to “scape” Rhodes would be impossible “without hav[ing] this fort” (3.2.312-3); this point is specifically reiterated in the King of Rhodes' own assertion that “no man / Could kill me and scape clear, but that old man [Calianax]” (4.2.79-80) since he alone has “the means” (4.2.83). That the vengeful rebels gain control of the city's fortifications, then, is a crucial precondition for the transfer of power that we see at the end of the play. By scene 2 of act 5, the self-righteous conspirators are perched safely atop the city walls. Amiably negotiating with passers-by, Melantius and his “boldly confident” (5.2.12) comrades translate their control of the fortifications into political authority as they offer the now-vacant position of Rhodian monarch to Lysippus: “Come to the back gate, and we'll call you king, / And give you up the fort” (5.2.72-3).
Has got the fort and stands upon the wall
And with a loud voice calls those few that pass
At this dead time of night, delivering
The innocence of this act. (5.1.141-5)
This Ianus…acquainted himselfe with one Pythius an Epiro, of great familiaritie with Marius Philelphus (of late secretarie vnto Damboyse...) Ianus by the meanes of Pythius, whom he had now throughly corrupted, sought after Philelphus, who then as hee right well knew, liued discontented, as a fit instrument whereby to worke this treason; for that he was a man well acquainted with the cookes and butlers, and other seruitours in the Great Masters house, and himselfe (yet) there verie conuersant also. Pythius presuming of his old acquaintance and familiaritie with Philelphus, and waiting vpon his melancholie humour, began to persuade him to reuenge the disgrace he liued in, and withall to shew him the meanes how to doe it, by poysoning of the Great Master: which might (as he said) fall out to his greater good than he was yet aware of. Philelphus making semblant as if he had not disliked of the motion, was desirous to know of him what farther benefit might thereby arise vnto him, more than reuenge….Philelphus hauing got full vnderstanding of the treason, presently discouered the same to Damboyse.
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From cobwebs, sir,Though we learn that the fort has allegedly not seen action during Calianax's tenure as guardian, we have no way of knowing just how long it has been “Since he commanded.” Furthermore, the King's subsequent reaction—“You are not merry” (4.2.94)—marks Melantius' comment about the fort's alleged “cobwebs” as nothing more than a snide, ill-humoured dig at an old adversary. Faced with such temporal ambiguity within the play, we are left to wonder: Is this the Rhodes that we remember as a fortified bastion of medieval Christianity? Could it, perhaps, be simultaneously meant as a fictive reflection of the Ottoman-occupied Rhodes as it existed in Beaumont and Fletcher's own era? Or—to introduce a new interpretative dimension to the mix—is this also meant to be understood as a literary locale, positioned within the versatile imaginative topography of the mythological Mediterranean?
'Tis clean swept. I can find no other art
In keeping of it now: 'Twas ne'er besieged
Since he commanded. (4.2.86-9).
As soon as I am dead,Envisioning her own body in explicitly textual terms, she suggests that the spectacle of her misfortune will be “Writ[ten] on [her] brow”; her corpse, as she pictures it, will serve as yet another link in a long textual tradition of narratives attesting “The truth of maids, and perjuries of men.” It is precisely this self-identification as a literary character located within an extant textual tradition of deceit and desertion that allows Aspatia to present herself as a potential paradigm of grief when she later tells Evadne:
Come all, and watch one night about my hearse;
Bring each a mournful story and a tear
To offer at it when I go to earth;
With flattering ivy clasp my coffin round;
Write on my brow my fortune; let my bier
Be borne by virgins that shall sing by course,
The truth of maids and perjuries of men. (2.1.100-7)
May no discontentAs her pointed intertextual references indicate, Aspatia is portrayed as—and understands herself to be—part of an ongoing and regional literary tradition of rejection, and it is significant that the three specific narratives with which she aligns her own feature heroines associated with Asia Minor and/or the nearby islands of the eastern Mediterranean. The first two of these three local heroines are invoked by Aspatia in a conversation that the disconsolate maid has with her women Antiphila and Olympias in act 2, scene 2:
Grow 'twixt your love and you! But, if there do
Inquire of me, and I will guide your moan,
And teach you an artificial way to grieve,
To keep your sorrow waking. (2.1.92-6)
Come, let's be sad, my girls!Later in this same scene, in what is perhaps the play's most memorable and frequently cited passage (and a passage that I will later return to later in this article), Aspatia draws attention to the even more evocative parallels between her plight and that of a third mythological precedent. Having asked to view a “piece of needlework” (2.2.40) depicting the story of Theseus and Ariadne, Aspatia proceeds to critique Antiphilia's artistry:
That downcast of thine eye, Olympias,
Shows a fine sorrow. –Mark, Antiphila,
Just such another was the nymph Oenone's,
When Paris brought home Helen. [To Olympias] Now, a tear,
And then thou art a piece expressing fully
The Carthage queen [Dido], when from a cold sea rock,
Full with her sorrow, she tied fast her eyes
To the fair Trojan ships, and, having lost them,
Just as thine does, down stole a tear. (2.2.27-36)
These colors are not dull and pale enoughBy prompting her women to assimilate extant narratives with the circumstances of their own lives, Aspatia encourages them to reembody and reanimate the literary characters of a prior, regional tradition: assume a “downcast” countenance, and a Rhodian maiden can easily become “Just such another” as Oenone; it only takes “a tear” to transform oneself into “a piece expressing fully” the plight of Dido. Aspatia goes so far to suggest that, with her own “soul so full of misery,” she can, in essence, out-Ariadne the mythological Ariadne. What is particularly notable about Aspatia's impassioned literary citations of her Ovidian precursors is the way in which she envisions the overlay of mythological space onto her own world. This point is underscored by her remark that “you shall find all true but the wild island.” As she reminds us, one “wild island” is not so different from the other; both physically and symbolically speaking, Ariadne's Naxos is not far from Aspatia's own Rhodes.
To show a soul so full of misery
As this sad lady's was. Do it by me;
Do it again by me, the lost Aspatia,
And you shall find all true but the wild island.
And think I stand upon the sea breach now,
Mine arms thus, and mine hair blown with the wind,
Wild as that desert, and let all about me
Tell that I am forsaken. Do my face
(If thou hadst ever feeling of a sorrow)
Thus, thus, Antiphila. Strive to make me look
Like Sorrow's monument; and the trees about me,
Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks
Groan with continual surges, and behind me
Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches,
A miserable life of this poor picture! (2.2.63-78)
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[Aspatia's] story…involves little more than an initial explanation that she has been cast off, a few scenes in which she and her father Calianax brood over her mistreatment, and finally her suicide, which she accomplishes by putting on pants and challenging Amintor. This action also gives the impression not of a separate or separable subplot, but of a component (imperfectly integrated) of the main plot—another dimension of Amintor's dilemma.We might say that there are two distinct narrative strands running through most of the play, the Melantius-dominated strand and the Aspatia-dominated strand, with the characters of Amintor and Evadne participating as supporting characters in both plotlines. Although each of these narrative strands has the same point of origin (that is, each stems from the unreasonable behaviour of an absolute monarch), nonetheless, each strand develops somewhat independently throughout the play's first four acts. As my earlier analyses suggest, for much of The Maid's Tragedy these two strands correspond neatly with different semantic registers of the Rhodian setting. It hardly comes as a surprise to observe that the Melantius-dominated plot, a plot strand that ultimately leads toward political usurpation, plays heavily upon Rhodes' geopolitical associations by inviting us to consider the ways in which the dynastic conflict at the heart of The Maid's Tragedy resonates with historical events unfolding in the early modern Mediterranean. Similarly, that the self-consciously literary Aspatia-dominated plot, a plot strand detailing the consequences of an abandoned woman's grief, relies heavily upon the mythological resonances of Rhodes' Mediterranean setting is only to be expected. What I am also interested in exploring, however, is the intersection of the setting's various registers; that is, how Rhodes' associations with distinct geopolitical places and imaginative spaces can concurrently influence our perception of action within the play.
in this place work a quicksand,When Antiphilia protests that such an artistic modification would surely “wrong the story” (2.2.58), Aspatia's reassurance that “'Twill make the story, wronged by wanton poets, / Live long, and be believed” (2.2.59-60) foreshadows the way in which she will attempt to re-'right' what she sees as a flawed literary paradigm. Indeed, her desire to see Theseus caught in “quicksand” and plagued by a “Fear” ominously presages the type of vengeance she will enact upon Amintor at the play's end.
And over it a shallow smiling water,
And [Theseus'] ship ploughing it, and then a Fear.
Do that Fear to the life, wench. (2.2.54-7)
 William Shakespeare, The Tempest, in The Norton Shakespeare, Volume II: Later Plays, eds. Stephen Greenblatt et al., 2nd edn. (New York: Norton, 2008), 2.1.252-3. All further references to Shakespeare's works are to this edition.
 Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, The Maid's Tragedy, in English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology, eds. David Bevington et al. (New York: Norton, 2002), 1.1.39-40. Although I have keyed all further references to The Maid's Tragedy to this edition, while preparing this article I also relied upon The Maid's Tragedy, ed. T.W. Craik, Revels Plays (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1988), which contains a useful general introduction to the text as well as extensive appendices detailing some of the play's apparent sources.
 Andrew C. Hess, “The Mediterranean and Shakespeare's Geopolitical Imagination,” in The Tempest and Its Travels, eds. Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2000), 121. Hess's work is representative of a growing body of scholarship which attempts to relocate The Tempest within the geopolitical context of the early modern Mediterranean. Related work includes: Barbara Fuchs, “Conquering Islands: Contextualizing The Tempest,” Shakespeare Quarterly 48 (1997): 45-62; Lisa Hopkins, '“Absolute Milan': Two Types of Colonialism in The Tempest,” Journal of Anglo-Italian Studies 4 (1995): 1-10; Jerry Brotton, “'This Tunis, sir, was Carthage': Contesting Colonialism in The Tempest,” in Post-Colonial Shakespeares, eds. Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (London: Routledge, 1998), 23-42; Jerry Brotton, “Carthage and Tunis, The Tempest and Tapestries,” in The Tempest and Its Travels, 132-7; and Robin Kirkpatrick, “The Italy of The Tempest,” in The Tempest and Its Travels, 78-96.
 Fuchs, 57-8. Emphasis my own.
 Richard Hakluyt, The principal nauigations, voyages, traffiques and discoueries of the English nation made by sea or ouer-land, to the remote and farthest distant quarters of the earth, at any time within the compasse of these 1600. yeres (London, 1600; STC 12626a), 72.
 Richard Knolles, The generall historie of the Turkes from the first beginning of that nation to the rising of the Othoman familie: with all the notable expeditions of the Christian princes against them (London, 1603; STC 15051), “To the High and Mightie Prince James, by the Grace of god King of England, Scotland, Fravnce, and Ireland” (n.p.). The popularity of this text is attested by its numerous seventeenth-century reprintings (1610, 1621, 1631, 1638, 1679, and 1687).
 The generall historie of the Turkes, 'To the High and Mightie Prince James, by the Grace of god King of England, Scotland, Fravnce, and Ireland' (n.p.).
 The generall historie of the Turkes, 3.
 The principal nauigations, 82.
 Encounters with Ottomans were frequently presented on the early modern stage. Recent monographs which touch upon the implications and nature of such encounters include: Daniel J. Vitkus, Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean (New York: Palgrave, 2003); Matthew Dimmock, New Turkes: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005); Jonathan Burton, Traffic and Turning: Islam and English Drama 1579-1624 (Newark: U of Delaware P, 2005); and Gerald MacLean, Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 (New York, Palgrave, 2007).
 Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, in English Renaissance Drama, 1.1.145-6, 1.1.155. All further references to The Jew of Malta are to this edition.
 On the Jew of Malta's relationship to Mediterranean geopolitics, see Lisa Hopkins, “Malta of Gold: Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, and the Siege of 1565,” (Re)Soundings 1 (1997), <http://shura.shu.ac.uk/1294/2/malta.pdf>.
 Later in this same scene, we hear further details about the 1522 siege:
For when their hideous force environed Rhodes,
Small though the number was that kept the town,
They fought it out, and not a man survived
To bring the hapless news to Christendom. (2.2.47-51)
 The real-life history of the Knights of St John played out a bit like a restaging of Aeneas' journey in search of Latium; after the fall of Rhodes in 1522, the Grand Master spent nearly a decade visiting European monarchs—including Henry VIII—prior to receiving the Maltese islands as a gift from Charles V.
 This picture of the walled city of Rhodes would have been familiar to Jacobean audiences, for historical that sources expound at length upon the nature and design of the Rhodian fortifications. The Generall Historie of the Turkes, for example, describes: “The citie of the RHODES is scituaton a plaine ground, on euerie side to be besieged, onely Northward it is defended with a goodly hauen, from whence it lieth all Westward….But what by nature wanted, was by the hand and industrie of man supplied; for it was compassed about with a most strong double wall and deepe trenches, threatning the enemie with thirteene stately towers: and sure against all assaults, with fiue mightie bulwarks: with diuers goodly faire gates” (581).
 The generall historie of the Turkes, 582.
 The generall historie of the Turkes, 427; The principal nauigations, 73.
 The generall historie of the Turkes, 430.
 We may, in fact, hear another echo of this same story in the conversation about poisoning that transpires between the King of Rhodes, Melantius, and Calianax in act 4. The King, by this point wary of Melantius' motives, meditates “I am now considering / How easy 'twere, for any man we trust / To poison one of us in such a [wine] bowl” (4.2.56-8).
 Related to my comments about the play's general sense of atemporality is Ronald Broude's argument that the play “assiduously avoids a discussion of specific topics that might have been construed to have relevance to Jacobean politics”: “Divine Right and Divine Retribution in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy,” in Shakespeare and Dramatic Tradition Essays in Honor of S.F. Johnson, eds. W.R. Elton and William B. Long (Newark: U of Delaware P, 1989), 252.
 This is possibly a reference to the city of Patras, onetime part of the Byzantine Empire but conquered by Mehmed II in 1458. It was a site of numerous fifteenth century conflicts, particularly between Venetian, Genoese, and Ottoman forces.
 My remarks throughout this section are partially inspired by the plethora of scholarship detailing the relationships between Shakespeare's Tempest and Vergil's Aeneid. Such work includes: Donna B. Hamilton, Virgil and The Tempest: The Politics of Imitation (Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1990); David Scott Wilson-Okamura, “Virgilian Models of Colonization in Shakespeare's Tempest,” ELH 70 (2003): 709–37; Margaret Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare, and Early Modern Virgil (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998); Heather James, Shakespeare's Troy: Drama, Politics, and the Translation of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997); and Mihoko Suzuki, Metamorphoses of Helen: Authority, Difference, and the Epic (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1989).
 Michael C. J. Putnam, “Troy in Latin Literature,” New England Classical Journal 34 (2007): 195.
 Raphael Lyne, “Intertextuality and the Female Voice after the Heroides,” Renaissance Studies 22 (2008): 314-23. As readers of The Maid's Tragedy have often observed, Aspatia's literary clichés also draw upon Shakespeare's prior characterization of Ophelia; memorably, both lovesick heroines sing songs about the willow.
 Lisa Hopkins has also noted a potential allusion to a fourth classical heroine (Cleopatra—yet again a character associated with the ancient Mediterranean) in Aspatia's 2.2 mention of “aspics”: The Female Hero in English Renaissance Tragedy (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 60. To this I would add the further observation that “asp” contained in Aspatia's very name is also suggestive of Cleopatra.
 Alexander Leggatt, English Drama: Shakespeare to the Restoration 1590-1660 (New York: Longman, 1988), 205. Such statements about Aspatia's artistry are commonplace in scholarship on The Maid's Tragedy. William Shullenberger, for example, similarly asserts that “She is the self-conscious artist who weaves out her history as an emblem of the forsaken woman”: '“This For the Most Wrong'd of Women': A Reappraisal of 'The Maid's Tragedy,'” Renaissance Drama 13 (1982): 153.
 Emphasis my own.
 In his seminal article on the image of the forsaken woman in this play, Ronald Huebert offers a complimentary reading of this scene, suggesting that “mythological allusion serves a double purpose: it underlines the inevitability of Aspatia's plight by placing her among the lovelorn women of legend, and it predicts her death by association with heroines who died for love”: “'An Artificial Way to Grieve': The Forsaken Woman in Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger and Ford,” ELH 44 (1977): 608. As Craik has noted, the mythological references to Ariadne in this scene also echo Shakespeare's prior allusions to this story in act 4 of The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Introduction in The Maid's Tragedy, ed.T.W. Craik, 8.
 “Carthage and Tunis, The Tempest and Tapestries,” 132. Brotton's further observations (in this article and elsewhere) about how early modern accounts of contemporary Mediterranean geography and politics were habitually “negotiated through the deployment of classical parallels” dovetail nicely with my own readings of Rhodes' plural resonances within The Maid's Tragedy: '“This Tunis, sir, was Carthage,'” 33.
 Shullenberger, 152; Stephen Guy-Bray, Homoerotic Space: The Poetics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002), 195; Christian M. Billing, Masculinity, Corporality and the English Stage, 1580-1635 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 156; Mark E. Bingham, “The Multiple Plot in Fletcherian Tragicomedies,” SEL 33 (1993): 407.
 Thomas Kyd, Soliman and Perseda in The Works of Thomas Kyd, ed. Frederick S. Boas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1901), 1.5.5-6. All further references to Soliman and Perseda are to this edition, though I have modernised the use of u/v in Boas' text where appropriate.
 Lucas Erne has identified Kyd's ultimate source for Perseda's death scene as François de Belleforest's 1575 edition of Sebastian Münster's Cosmographie Universelle, which relates a tale of cross-dressing that supposedly took place during the 1522 siege of Rhodes: Beyond The Spanish Tragedy: A Study of the Works of Thomas Kyd (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2001), 164. An English translation of the passage from Cosmographie Universelle can be found in Vivian Thomas and William Tydeman, eds., Christopher Marlowe: The Plays and their Sources (London: Routledge, 1994), 157-8. The most relevant segment reads: “she rushed to the place where lay the body of her lover, put on her lord's coat of mail…, and taking his short sword in her hand, made her way into the midst of the enemy, where doing the deeds the bravest men perform, she was killed by the Turks, whom she believed would shortly take the town by assault.” Additionally, in Craik's Revels edition of The Maid's Tragedy, he (in turn relying on the earlier observation of Alexander Dyce) points to “resemblances of situation and emotion” between Aspatia's death and Parthenia's death in Arcadia, and he posits Philip Sidney's text as Beaumont and Fletcher's source “though the circumstances of the two incidents are quite different”: Introduction in The Maid's Tragedy, ed. T.W. Craik, 4. While I find Craik's suggestion of an Aspatia/Parthenia connection a plausible alternative, it would appear that any influence Sidney's Arcadia may have had on Aspatia's demise was refracted through the more direct lens of Kyd's Rhodian play.
 Soliman falls dead shortly after this in another plot twist that perhaps bears a resemblance to the regicide in The Maid's Tragedy. Kyd's sultan is entrapped by a kiss stolen from the poisoned lips of the dying Perseda. It is thus that the lascivious tyrant in Kyd's play is also murdered in an erotically suggestive manner by the female object off his inappropriate lust.
 My reading of Beaumont and Fletcher's Soliman and Perseda quotation compliments Mark Hutchings' arguments in “The 'Turk Phenomenon' and the Repertory of the late Elizabethan Playhouse,” in which—advocating a repertory-based approach in understanding the so-called Turk plays of the period —he observes that such plays “were part of a narrative that operated collectively”: Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 16 (2007): 5. <http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-16/hutcturk.htm>.
 Naomi Liebler,“'A Woman Dipped in Blood': The Violent Femmes of The Maid's Tragedy and The Changeling,” in Women, Violence, and English Renaissance Literature: Essays Honoring Paul Jorgensen, eds. Linda Woodbridge and Sharon Beehler (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2003), 366.
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© 2012-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).