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Inscription in "Nova Solyma, the Ideal City" or "Jerusalem Regained; an Anonymous Romance Written in the Time of Charles I"

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Probable editor's gift inscription, "Jacobo Hiltonio Amico Suo Amicissimo D. D. D Libri hujus Editor et Interpres. W. B. A.D. CMMII".

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2017-03-15

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Affecting objects, or, The drama of imperial commodities in English performance, 1660-1800

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Early modern theater was a major site of cultural exploration into Britain’s imperial ambitions. The frequency with which drama depicted exotic locations and foreign peoples has prompted a wealth of excellent scholarship investigating how London theater portrayed Asia and the

Early modern theater was a major site of cultural exploration into Britain’s imperial ambitions. The frequency with which drama depicted exotic locations and foreign peoples has prompted a wealth of excellent scholarship investigating how London theater portrayed Asia and the New World. With so much attention paid to the places and people of the world, however, dramatic scholarship has yet to take note of the way in which the commodities of empire, the actual driving force behind expansion of British trade routes and colonial holdings, featured in long eighteenth-century drama. "Affecting Objects; or, the Drama of Imperial Commodities in English Performance, 1660-1800" investigates how imperial commodities—goods made available by Britain’s rapidly expanding trans-Atlantic trade routes— were used as stage props in long eighteenth-century comedy as a means to explore domestic ramifications of Britain’s developing empire. "Affecting Objects" recovers the presence of exotic commodities in the theater by bringing together branches of object theory, material culture studies, performance scholarship, and theater history.

Drawing attention to imperial commodities used as theatrical props on the Restoration and eighteenth-century stage, I reassess commonly studied plays as well as critically overlooked works. Foreign “things” in performance, such as spices and produce in seventeenth-century Lord Mayor’s Shows, china in William Wycherley’s _The Country Wife_ (1675), jewels from the East in Oliver Goldsmith’s _She Stoops to Conquer_ (1773), and the Indian shawl in Elizabeth Inchbald’s _Appearance is Against Them_ (1785), informed reception of the works they appeared in while also influencing how the people of London understood the role of those commodities in their everyday lives. As the commercialism of British society increased, imperial commodities became necessary “actors” in British social relations; the British stage responded in kind by showcasing how such goods dictated and mediated communal relations and constructions of the self. I argue that the way in which exotic goods were utilized in performance served to create, investigate, underwrite, and/or critique a British national and personal identity constructed upon access to and control over imperial commodities.

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2015