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Davis, Elizabeth R. “English Imperial Selfhood and Semiperipheral Witchcraft in ‘The Faerie Queene,’ ‘Daemonologie,’ and ‘The Tempest.’” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Wake Forest University, 2016.  

Using New Historicist, feminist, and postcolonial approaches, my thesis examines the confluence of early modern Protestant England’s attempts to instate its nationhood on the world stage, its relations with Ireland and Scotland, and English writers’ representations of witchcraft. I discuss the ways that witches oppose Protestant patriarchal norms in the first book of Spenser’s 1590 poem The Faerie Queene, James I’s 1597–1603 tract Daemonologie, and Shakespeare’s 1610–11 play The Tempest. The Scottish and Irish witches of these works embody an intractable, powerful racial “Otherness” that undermines the production of faithful English subjects in the larger British Isles, keeping England from upholding its ambitions of territorial control. The English characters of each text thus demonize these women, defining Englishness in “civilized” opposition to their alterity. By invoking witches’ unruly and grotesque bodies, militant Englishmen in these texts justify their eradication of these women from their native Scottish and Irish spaces as divinely ordained and profitable to absolute rule. However, witches’ influences over these same spaces English characters aim to conquer pose a constant, feminized threat to imperial order, demonstrating entrenched counterdiscourses of Scottish and Irish cultural traditions of religion, gender, attachment to place, and individual agency. 


Duerden, Annelise Claudia. “Mortal Verse: Embodied Memory in Early Modern Poetry of Love, Grief, and Devotion.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Washington University in St. Louis, 2016.  

In Mortal Verse I argue that early modern poets sought a poetic immortality that was paradoxically rooted in the mortal, material body. From the material condition of verse (written or printed on paper made out of recycled clothing) to the conceptual (taken into the mind through eye or ear and stored in the memory) poetry came yoked to the human body for Renaissance writers and readers. Attention to this overlooked early modern sense of embodied memory is crucial to understanding poetic commemoration, which both treats poems as bodies—what John Donne calls his “carcass verses”—and bodies as commemorative edifices. In that sense, my dissertation concerns itself with the place of poetry in both private memory and public commemoration, understanding both through the intimacy and the community of bodily life. Writers such as Philip Sidney argue for a crucial interdependence between bodily senses, poetry, and memory in their poetic defenses. I maintain that Sidney’s physicalized terms, such as poetic pictures that “strike” and “pierce” the mind, are more than a rhetorical convenience; they reveal the Renaissance embodiment of verse in the mind. I establish the preeminence of embodied memory and verse in Donne’s visceral commemorations, as well as in Spenser, Shakespeare and others’ poetic blazons of the late 16th century—where the appropriating gestures of desire are subtly pitted against physicalized loss, even as subjects are preserved in the memorial detail. I further examine both physiological and poetic treatments of tears across seventeenth-century amatory, funerary, and devotional writing, where weeping is an act that simultaneously establishes and effaces embodied memory. For these early modern writers, poetry’s lasting impact on impermanent bodies makes it an uneasy alternative to divine immortality. My argument culminates in a reading of The Temple as deliberately built on the foundations of contemporary amatory and funerary verse which relies on embodiment: Herbert’s insistence on mortal verse allows him to place his verse in a mutable body that may be over-written by the divine, thus commemorating his relation to God. The Temple presents a palimpsestic material body, inhabiting a sense of the relation between mortal and immortal creation.  

The gestures of poetic immortality, founded on the impressions created by the senses in the memory, are, themselves, based on impermanence. That is, if a poet’s words are to last, they will do so only through a chain of mortal memories—residing within the confines of embodied memory. Through Donne’s poetic experiments, the sonnet traditions of Spenser, Shakespeare and others, the commemorative verse of weeping, and the devotional poetry of Herbert one common element ties the immortality of verse to the physical decay of the mortal and material body. In tracing the production of mortal verse, I write not only a broader cultural history of the body but also revise intellectual histories of the memory in early modern poetry, revealing in the process the way embodied memory affected the form and focus of early modern verse.  

While scholarship on the art of memory (begun by Francis Yates and continued by Paolo Rossi, Mary Carruthers, and others) attends to the physicalized mind, it has not fully responded to two important related fields: cultural-historical work on the body and literary-historical work on poetic materiality. The two scholarly discourses on memory and bodies on the one hand, and on materiality and poetics on the other, have been running alongside one another without intersecting; yet for early modern poets and intellectuals, I argue, memory, bodies, and poetry were in constant conversation. Building on the scholarship of writers like Michael Schoenfeldt and Gail Paster, who derive a description of early modern interiority and selfhood from early modern accounts of the body’s relationship with its environment, I show that the (already) physicalized inward mind is itself a repository and an edifice for commemoration. I demonstrate what literary history can contribute to the cultural history of the body by showing that both early modern poetic apologists and early modern poets specifically linked the physicality of the mind to the effective force of poetry. Through multiple verse genres, and across a broad range of authors, I show that early modern writers saw memory and poetry as mutually constitutive, inflecting both through the body, and affecting the form, concerns, and understanding of their artistic endeavors. 


Kingsbury, Melinda Spencer. “‘The Counterfait in Personation’: Prosopopoeia and Elizabethan Fictionality in Female-Voiced Complaint Poetry of the 1590s.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Indiana University, 2016.   

This dissertation redefines fictionality in the Elizabethan period by attending to prosopopoeia as an energizing and generative figure for fictional characterization. Described in Elizabethan rhetorical manuals as the feigning of persons in speech, prosopopoeia was conceptualized as a rhetorical practice through which absent or non-living entities might be “personated” as imaginary composites capable of moving the emotions of contemporary audiences. Because modern scholarship has not distinguished prosopopoeia from its post-Enlightenment renderings as personification and ventriloquism, its distinctive mode of fictionality has been overlooked, along with the poetic forms produced through imaginative engagements with it. Redressing this problem, my dissertation attends to the specific rhetorical, pedagogical, and literary contexts within which prosopopoeia was understood and practiced during the Elizabethan period. I focus mainly on Elizabethan female-voiced complaint poetry of the 1590s because it is within this subgenre that both the mode of fictionality and the critical impasses that have led to its neglect emerge clearly. The major complaints I analyze include Thomas Lodge’s Prosopopeia Containing the Teares of Mary, Edmund Spenser’s Prosopopoia: Or Mother Hubberds Tale and his The Teares of the Muses, and Samuel Daniel’s The Complaint of Rosamond. In them, prosopopoeia configures a distinctive relation to authorship that affects how we understand literary discourse during the period. These complaints also function as sites of moral instruction that aim to facilitate the reader’s spiritual transformation. Central here are first-person fictional characters who teach not by exemplifying virtue or vice directly but by destabilizing the reader’s sense of certitude. In this way, readers are drawn into processes of interpretation that invite a discursive response as a form of ethical action. Reading these texts as literary experiments with a culturally and historically specific understanding of prosopopoeia illuminates a process of literary creativity that organizes the generation of speaking characters in Elizabethan poetry more broadly. 


Moyer, Holly Lynette. “To Yield or Die: The Power of the Prisoner from Chaucer to Shakespeare. Proquest Dissertations and Theses. University of California, Los Angeles, 2016.   

Scholars examining captivity in the medieval and early modern periods have laid a strong foundation of work that explores both historical details (the layout of prisons, the laws of ransom) and individual captive voices (especially in martyr stories and captivity narratives). Recently, definitional and theoretical questions have risen out of such specific analyses. For example, what is the difference between a “captive” and a “slave”? Can captives be best categorized by the reason they are held, the duration of their loss of freedom, their social status, or something else?  

In response to these challenges, To Yield or Die identifies and explores a persistent discourse about captive characters in English late medieval and early modern texts including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Malory’s Le Morte Darthur; Spenser’s Faerie Queene; Marlowe’s Edward II, The Jew of Malta , and two Tamburlaine plays; and the works of Shakespeare (with particular focus on Richard II,Measure for Measure, and The Rape of Lucrece). When characters face the literal or figurative sword’s point and are ordered to “yield or die,” texts treat their answers as permanently characterizing choices. The discourse thus creates ­three categories of captive character based on those choices: those who yield, those who risk death by resisting, and those who reply illegibly (or not at all) and thus negate the question’s definitional power. These categories operate within each story’s world to explore selfhood and establish relationships; they also operate at the formal level of textual construction (characters who yield are almost never protagonists; illegible characters often provoke interpretive confusion for fellow characters and readers alike).  

While exploring this discourse, To Yield or Die also examines how texts manipulate and subvert its conventions, especially when the discourse collides with others including those involving gender, religion, chivalric culture, and so forth. The yield-or-die discourse both celebrates unexpected means of resistance (for example, it respects patient suffering) and is also cruelly oppressive (for example, it labels as “slavish” those who yield to save their own lives). To Yield or Die provides a clarifying lens through which to study texts about enslaved people, prisoners, and other captive figures. 


Sandberg, Julianne. “Flesh Becoming Word: Eucharist and Allegory in Early Modern England.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Southern Methodist University, 2016.  

Flesh Becoming Word contends that early modern writers found in the Reformed Eucharist a new site of allegorical reading that structured literary allegory and the bodies that comprise it. When collated with the Eucharist, post-Reformation allegory maps onto the body the vibrancy of figuration and mystery of the sacrament—and what results is a body read like a book. In contrast to the Catholic Mass, which posited that bread and wine became Christ’s literal body, the Reformed Eucharist reconfigured the relationship between reading, allegory, and bodies by making bread and wine into allegorical signs that generate reading. This rich theological history illuminates the ways in which religious culture mediates the literary imagination and energizes literature that similarly explores the intersection of signification, reading, and embodiment. As the era’s most encountered, most important, and most controversial allegorical space, the Reformed Eucharist allows writers such as Edmund Spenser, John Donne, and Aemilia Lanyer to newly envision the body and its signifying potential. They look to the ritual as the framework for considering how the body signifies and how it can be read. In carving out a previously unrecognized space for allegory within Protestant thought, Flesh Becoming Word re-envisions the bodies on which allegory depends and the role religion played in shaping them. 


Van Oort, Danielle. “Rest, Sweet Nymphs: Pastoral Origins of the English Madrigal.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Marshall University, 2016.  

This thesis is an interdisciplinary study of the impact pastoral themes in art, literature, and music had on the stylistic and thematic development of the late-Renaissance English madrigal (ca. 1590–1620), specifically works by Elizabethan composers. Madrigals were profoundly influenced by poetry and visual art as the basis for text and subject matter. Consequently, many English madrigals, both light and serious forms, cultivated Arcadian themes presented in Italian idyllic art and literature of the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. Works discussed throughout each chapter include Jacopo Sannazaro’s poetic collection, Arcadia (ca. 1489), Edmund Spenser’s seasonal eclogues, The Shepheardes Calender (1579), Oliver Isaac’s portrait of Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses (ca. 1590), Francis Pilkington’s madrigal “Rest, Sweet Nymphs” (1605), and Thomas Tomkin’s ballett “See, See the Shepherds’ Queen” (1622), among others. Analyses of rustic imagery, such as landscape, allegory, and expressive tone, in individual works draw thematic connections between pastoral repertoires throughout Europe, which affected the English pastoral tradition. 


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"Dissertations," Spenser Review 46.2.23 (Fall 2016). Accessed March 20th, 2018.
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