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Connell, Sarah Elizabeth. “‘No room in history’: Genre and Identiy in British and Irish National Histories, 1541-1691.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. Northeastern U, 2014. Web.

In this project, I build on the scholarship that has challenged the historiographic revolution model to question the valorization of the early modern humanist narrative history’s sophistication and historiographic advancement in direct relation to its concerted efforts to shed the purportedly pious, credulous, and naïve materials and methods of medieval history. As I demonstrate, the methodologies available to early modern historians, many of which were developed by medieval chroniclers, were extraordinary flexible, able to meet a large number of scholarly and political needs. I argue that many early modern historians worked with medieval texts and genres not because they had yet to learn more sophisticated models for representing the past, but rather because one of the most effective ways that these writers dealt with the political and religious exigencies of their times was by adapting the practices, genres, and materials of medieval history.

I demonstrate that the early modern national history was capable of supporting multiple genres and reading modes; in fact, many of these histories reflect their authors’ conviction that authentic past narratives required genres with varying levels of facticity. For example, I show that Geoffrey Keating’s ca. 1634 Foras Feasa ar Éirinn invokes the repetitive typological structure of medieval scéla (“stories”) to refute accounts of the Irish past that were written in support of the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland while Roderic O’Flaherty’s 1685 Ogygiaaccomplishes similar anti-colonial aims by mustering the cumulative genres of medieval Ireland. On the other side of the Irish Sea, Daniel Langhorne’s 1676 Introduction to the History of England includes a vigorous defense of the tradition that Brutus the Trojan first settled Britain because the Brutus legend validated England’s monarchial government and authority over Scotland and Wales, both of which had been challenged by the Interregnum. In his historical and poetic works, Edmund Spenser shows that mixtures of fiction and history are necessary to imagine the empire that is at the heart of British identity. Ultimately, I argue that the “room” sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholars found in history for a great wealth of genres and historiographic practices shows that we must construct equally capacious disciplinary and period models if we are to encompass the complex and varied genres of early modern history.

Dawkins, Claire Anna. “Not a Whore: The Defense against Sexual Slander in Early Modern English Romances.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. U of California, Davis, 2013. Web.

My dissertation, Not a Whore: The Defense against Sexual Slander in Early Modern English Romances, examines rhetorical strategies that female characters use to ward off false accusations of whoredom. I argue that authors used representations of sexual slander to explore potential problems for their own literary reputations. Representations of slandered women are a locus for poets who contemplate how their own work could make them vulnerable to slander, but additionally, women’s defenses against slander become a way for the author to structure his or her own defense against a variety of anticipated criticisms or judgments. A dual representation of slander emerges in this study: reputation is something an author can never fully control (in reality); however, turns of plot and characterization allow for reputation to be restored via an authorial fantasy that is itself a defense against historical realities.

I focus on romance because this genre, through its formal characteristics of dilation and deferral, is uniquely adapted to representing a variety of viewpoints, including the grievances of the slandered women, a viewpoint that is often silenced in other genres during the early modern period. My project focuses on a set of writers who explored significant analogies between charges against innocent women and charges against poets and playwrights: Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and Lady Mary Wroth. Building on M. Lindsay Kaplan’s argument that certain early modern English authors use a “paradigm of slander” to respond to criticisms of their art and their value to society, I argue that genre impacts the way that slander redefines power relationships between an author and his or her critics.

Heffernan, Megan. “Each part together sought: Inventing the English Poetry Collection, 1557-1640.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. U of Chicago, 2013. Web.

This dissertation advances a new history of early modern English poetry by recovering how gathered poems began to be read as books. It argues that the collection of short poems came into focus as a site of invention during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one moment in which print expanded and consolidated habits of lyric gathering. As an artifact of the interactions between diverse textual agents, the development of the poetry collection charts the contours of the book as a conceptual shape that was emerging in response to the material forms of print. With this focus on the collection, I recover a habit of mind that has remained somewhat hidden, perhaps due to critical unease with an imaginative reading of paratexts. My project shows these organizational structures, on the contrary, to be uniquely expressive of the point at which the framing capacities of stationers meet those of poets. Early modern readers consistently located meaning not only in single poems, but also in editorial devices that directed how poems were to be interpreted within larger collections. By illuminating this broad spectrum of textual activity, which incorporated the materiality of early printed books into ongoing experiments with poetic form, I rethink basic cultural and aesthetic formations and restore visibility to multiple new trajectories in literary history.

My study begins with Richard Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes (1557), a volume that provided an unprecedented model for the relationship between poems and printed books. The opening chapters focus on early multi-author poetry collections and the creative imitation of those editions by George Gascoigne and Isabella Whitney in the 1570s. A third chapter, on The Shepheardes Calender (1579) and Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595), explains how Edmund Spenser sought to counter this editorial paradigm by figuring organization as poetic labor. The two final chapters, on the coterie manuscripts of John Donne’s poems (1630s) and a late reissue of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609) as Shakespeare’s Poems (1640), highlight the diffuse afterlife of Tottel’s organizational practices, through which the diverse efforts of poets, publishers, and readers took over an editorial function that had become fundamental to literary production.

Howe, Jenny L. “Monstrous Femininity and the Female Body in Medieval Chivalric Romance.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. Tufts U, 2014. Web.

Monstrous Femininity considers the female body’s function as a mechanism of knowledge production/meaning-making within medieval chivalric romance. Though often identified as a “woman’s genre,” romance is trenchantly organized by patriarchal values. Most often, female figures within these texts serve as proving grounds for the protagonist’s entrance into chivalric masculinity, the acquisition, exchange, or even elision of the heroine cementing his identity as a knight. This dissertation argues that female bodies function as points of rupture or fissure that unsettle this normative gender system. Examining romances from Chaucer, Malory, Chretien de Troyes, and Spenser alongside a number of anonymous Middle English romances, I demonstrate that female bodies across romance conflate forms of masculinity and femininity and open up the borders of the body through bleeding, excess, and desire. I read romance’s disruptive female bodies as an extension of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s theory of the monster, understanding female corporeality within romance as a site of instability, of systemic crisis and collapse.

I trace this thread of monstrous disruption through various forms of female corporeality. Each of my chapters takes up a different form of the female body, considering how loathliness, beauty, desire, and maternity all cross discursive and bodily bounds in distinct ways. A striking commonality that manifests from these discussions is how medieval romance works to shore up and shut down these ruptures, ultimately forcing the female body back into its role of normalizing agent through marriage, transformation, and death, and ignoring or covering over the residual excess that often results from this act. Ultimately, I argue that this monstrous construction of the female body, its refusal to assimilate fully into the patriarchal order that organizes and produces it, makes visible the ways that systems of power construct, manipulate, and make meaning out of bodies.

Macdonald, James Ross. “Popular Religious Belief and Literature in Early Modern England.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. Yale U, 2013. Web.

This project brings the historical-sociological concept of “popular religion” into play as a category of analysis for literary work in larger context of early modern English culture by charting some of the ways 16th and 17th -century authors could imagine and deploy supernatural beings within their fictions, giving particular attention to the way practices and mentalities deriving from customary sources within their contemporary society were hybridized and held in productive tension with strands of official or authoritative religious belief. Four chapters exemplify this approach to different writers. In the first, I show how Marlowe creates dramatic tension in Doctor Faustus by juxtaposing elite and popular views of diabolic agency while refusing to resolve the tensions between them. In the second, I explore the way Spenser navigates the popular hagiographical tradition in Book I of The Faerie Queene, charting the process by which he imports the types and tropes of personal sanctity existing in traditional culture and then comes to reconsider them by light of theology. In the third, I examine the intertwined textual histories of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Middleton’s The Witch as a point of inflection in a cultural transition between medieval English conceptions of witchcraft and the “Continental demonology” that arrived with James I, which emphasized the centrality of devil worship, covens and demonic pacts to occult practice. In the fourth, I explore how Milton’s conception of Raphael before and Michael after the fall as “sociable” angels in Paradise Lost negotiates between the popular imperative for a spirit world that is recognizably related to human social experience and the elite insistence on God’s primacy in all spiritual relationships.

Palmer, Philip S. “The World Inscribed: Literary Form, Travel, and the Book in England, 1580-1660.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. U of Massachusetts Amherst, 2013. Web.

Between 1580 and 1660 the English travel book emerged as a site of rich literary innovation. To supplement practical features long associated with the genre, writers called upon an array of poetic devices, satirical modes, and mixed prose and verse forms to represent the early modern traveled world. The World Inscribed: Literary Form, Travel, and the Book in England, 1580-1660 historicizes such literary experimentation by examining how travel narratives moved through the transmission circuits of early modern book culture, and how, in turn, modes of textual production shaped the genre’s formal characteristics. Reading canonical poets and dramatists (Spenser, Donne, Marvell, Jonson, Herbert) together with a number of contemporary printed and manuscript travel books, this project argues that the aesthetics and literary aims of prose travel writing developed rapidly alongside developments in the travel book as a circulating text technology. The project’s five case studies articulate not only how the form and style of early modern English travel writing could be altered or suppressed across different versions of a given narrative (within print or manuscript networks), but also how the travel book itself could serve as a vehicle for literary texts, especially verse, related to the writer’s travel experience but not necessarily offering direct descriptions of travel. By engaging with the understudied intersection of literary form, textual transmission, and early modern English travel writing, this project traces how new ways of representing the traveled world through material texts reveal the formal mechanics of a genre in the making.

Pangborn, Joshua R. “Speculative Nostalgia and its Role in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. St. John’s U (New York), 2014. Web.

This project proposes a new way of reading literature: through the lens of something I refer to as speculative nostalgia. This concept both expands and refines the broader term of `nostalgia,’ through an exploration of the author’s use of elements of the past, historical or fictional, in an attempt to comment and critique on the current state of affairs within the society the author lives in while potentially proposing a way to synthesize a better future from the commentary and criticism. Speculative nostalgia, then, is a pedagogical tool for the artist.

Speculative nostalgia can help an author’s audience adjust, and even reconcile, the chaos in the world around them. In this project, I will reflect specifically the use of speculative nostalgia by the Renaissance author; through this exploration, I will reveal a period during the Renaissance when individualism grew out of the chaos of an uncertain future, and the lessons from dead, childless queens lived on through the kings who adopted their playwrights.

Going beyond concepts espoused by Historicism, I will reveal how the Renaissance author-specifically Shakespeare, though with some examination of his contemporaries, including Edmund Spenser and George Chapman—utilizes historical elements in ways which call attention to their use. By doing so, he calls on his audiences to see the reason for this this use of the past-and what it says about the present, or even the future.

Szalacinski, Jessica A. “Language, Animality, and the Emerging Modern in Spenser, Baldwin, and Cervantes.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. Middle Tennessee State U, 2014. Web.

This study considers the ways in which notions of animality contribute to early modern discussions of what it means to be human. The talking animals in the selected works of Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), William Baldwin (c. 1518-1563), and Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616) are not the animals of beast fable. Spenser’s, Baldwin’s, and Cervantes’ talking apes, foxes, cats, and dogs register a residual animality typical of medieval habits of mind, but compounded with an emerging, early modern notion of a sovereign animal that reveals complex networks of competing cultural forces. By using the genres of the medieval beast fable and the bestiary to contextualize the notion of the “beast” in these authors’ works, the emerging permutations of a “novel” sense of animality can be traced, from Spenser’s poem “Mother Hubberds Tale” (1591), which troubles conventions of the beast fable, through Baldwin’s novel Beware the Cat (1570), which features two kingdoms—cat and human—functioning sovereignly, to Cervantes’ The Dialogue of the Dogs (1613), which depicts complex partnerships between members of the canine and human worlds. Considering animality and how it bears on the concept of “human”—

especially though techniques of satire and technologies of narrative framing—deepens our understanding of ontological and epistemological shifts in early modernity. Shifting shapes in the works by Spenser, Baldwin, and Cervantes mirror the larger philosophical, religious, and social metamorphoses that both arise from and further transform the changing nature of authority. Representations of animals in the period give humans the opportunity to think about their own places in society, about animal as greater than “beast,” and reveal the contours of humanity’s reforming self-conceptualization.

Turney, Brittany. “The Gyant’s Giant Meaning: An Application of Monster Theory to Edmund Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene.’” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. Arizona State U, 2014. Web.

This paper utilizes insights from emerging monster theory, particularly the idea that monsters are cultural representations, to examine the representation of the Gyant and the figure Talus in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. The thesis posits that contrary to most critical readings, the episode concerning the Gyant focuses on a portion of the 16th century English Cultural Body-the peasants, rather than the Irish or another cultural subgroup. The thesis also argues that through the application of monster theory, the complicated political sympathies of the author towards the English lower class emerge, and the English third estate gains a voice.

Waters, Alice E. “Literary Constellations: Collaboration and the Production of Early Modern Books.” Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Diss. Boston College, 2014. Web.

Literary Constellations resituates collaboration within the networks of books and people in the publishing industry in early modern London. Though print technologies and publishing practices are most often understood as providing the conditions for the development of single authorship, this project proposes that print also produced new forms of collective literary endeavors. Looking into the book industry, especially the activities of publishers within the Stationers’ Company, I present collaboration as creative activity dispersed among interconnected people and books in the literary arena. This approach expands the recent scholarly attention to collaborative literary activity while remaining grounded in the social and economic context in which books were produced. Not only were books written, translated, edited, marketed, printed, and sold collectively in various ways, but the publishing industry as it developed in London created new avenues for imagining books as existing within meaningful collectivities and as well.

Each chapter of this project examines a publishing event and traces its connections in the arena of books to illuminate the dynamics of collaborative publishing. Readings of the literary works are crafted by finding, illuminating, and taking seriously the traces among, between, and in texts. The first chapter examines the 1551 English translation of Utopia as a representative example of a collaborative literary process that includes writing as one in a larger constellation of literary efforts that produce the book. I further explore how the publisher Abraham Veale developed a specialty in health-related texts in translation, of which Utopia becomes a part. Chapter 2 introduces the English translation of the Aeneid published by Abraham Veale, which included a supplementary “thirteenth book,” and which was produced in a collaborative group of translators and annotators. This continuation of the epic raises questions about the potential for groups of agents in print to continue the work of poetry indefinitely. Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene directly responds to the English Aeneidos and its collaborative continuing of the work of Virgil, and in the process articulates an individualist model of literary writing and reading. The third chapter turns to the interdependence of play writing and publishing with other books in the marketplace. I argue that Pericles was published as part of an identifiable group of books, and so operates in an interdependent cluster of collaboratively built stories. Finally, Chapter 4 argues that news was a collaboratively produced print genre with close associations with printed plays. The project of selling individual dramatic authorship in the First Folio and Ben Jonson’s late plays required the disentanglement of play texts from their associations with news. Part of this move toward disentanglement includes Jonson’s satiric depiction of the stationer Nathaniel Butter and his news syndicate in The Staple of News.


  • Luke Robert 1 year, 2 months ago

    Great work! Your dissertation sheds light on the complex relationship between genre and identity in early modern English history. Your argument that early modern historians utilized medieval texts and genres to navigate political and religious challenges of their time is compelling. The examples you provide, such as Geoffrey Keating's use of scéla to refute accounts of Irish history and Daniel Langhorne's defense of the Brutus legend to validate England's monarchial authority, highlight the multifaceted nature of early modern national history.
    Also this will contribute to my writing which I am doing with the help of and I hope I will succeed quite well, thank you.
    Your focus on the romance genre as a space for exploring silenced viewpoints and the parallels between charges against innocent women and charges against poets and playwrights adds a fresh perspective to the existing scholarship.
    Your analysis of the organizational structures and framing capacities of stationers and poets within collections adds depth to our understanding of early modern reading habits.

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"Dissertations," Spenser Review 44.2.53 (Fall 2014). Accessed July 15th, 2024.
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