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Self-silencing in the early modern theater

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This dissertation considers why several characters on the Early Modern Stage choose to remain silent when speech seems warranted. By examining the circumstances and effects of self-silencing on both the character and his/her community, I argue that silencing is an

This dissertation considers why several characters on the Early Modern Stage choose to remain silent when speech seems warranted. By examining the circumstances and effects of self-silencing on both the character and his/her community, I argue that silencing is an exercise of power that simultaneously subjectifies the silent one and compels the community (textual or theatrical) to ethical self-examination. This argument engages primarily with social philosophers Pierre Bourdieu, Alain Badiou, and Emmanual Levinas, considering their sometimes contradictory ideas about the ontology and representation of the subject and the construction of community. Set alongside the Early Modern plays of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Thomas Kyd, these theories reveal a rich functionality of self-silencing in the contexts of gender relations, aberrant sociality, and ethical crisis. This multi-faceted functionality creates a singular subject, establishes a space for the simultaneous existence of the subject and his/her community, offers an opportunity for empathetic mirroring and/or insight, and thereby leads to social unification. Silence is, in its effects, creative: it engenders empathy and ethical self- and social-reflection.

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2011

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Biopolitics in the age of Shakespeare

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This dissertation is positioned at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and critical theory in order to explore the way early modern literature may be enlisted as a vehicle for a return to an ethically informed humanism, specifically with regard to

This dissertation is positioned at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and critical theory in order to explore the way early modern literature may be enlisted as a vehicle for a return to an ethically informed humanism, specifically with regard to how Western culture currently understands the contingent categories of "life" and "the human." While a great deal of critical work is currently being marshaled in the field of biopolitics, scholarly focus continues to be placed on the materiality of the physical body, or what I term "biopolitical materialism."

What remains underexplored, however, is the reality that "life" and "the human" are deeply relational categories that should not be reduced to such material instances alone. Historically, and especially in the early modern period, "life" and "the human" are understood as interconnected and widely networked. Although such materialism indeed becomes solidified in the seventeenth-century, I seek to recuperate an ethical challenge to contemporary biopolitical materialism through an extended dialogue with early modern thinkers. By turning to works "in the Age of Shakespeare" I return attention to the originary epoch of what has been described as our "modern event horizon." I argue that within the very historical period that gives rise to the practice of biopolitical materialism exists a rich textual archive of resistance to this troubling phenomenon in the form of neighborly concern and the acknowledgement of shared creaturely estate.

Chapter One inaugurates my argument by turning to Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, reading as its central theme the tragic effect inherent to dissociating the individual from the community. The remaining three chapters attend to neighborly forms given expression in three of Shakespeare's late plays: Chapter Two considers the potential political orientation of grace in Measure for Measure; Chapter Three positions neighborliness as a series of posthuman encounters in The Winter's Tale; and Chapter Four explores an early modern understanding of hospitality as stewardship at work in Timon of Athens. I conclude by turning to philosophy and political theology in order to suggest a way to think "life" as an ethical relation with, in, and through "the Age of Shakespeare."

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2014

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Trauma, typology, and anti-Catholicism in early modern England, 1579-1625

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“Trauma, Typology, and Anti-Catholicism in Early Modern England” explores the connection between the biblical exegetical mode of typology and the construction of traumatic historiography in early modern English anti-Catholicism. The Protestant use of typology—for example, linking Elizabeth to Eve--was a

“Trauma, Typology, and Anti-Catholicism in Early Modern England” explores the connection between the biblical exegetical mode of typology and the construction of traumatic historiography in early modern English anti-Catholicism. The Protestant use of typology—for example, linking Elizabeth to Eve--was a textual expression of political and religious trauma surrounding the English Reformation and responded to the threat presented by foreign and domestic Catholicism between 1579 and 1625. During this period of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, English anti-Catholicism began to encompass not only doctrine, but stereotypical representations of Catholics and their desire to overthrow Protestant sovereignty. English Protestant polemicists viewed themselves as taking part in an important hermeneutical process that allowed their readers to understand the role of the past in the present. Viewing English anti-Catholicism through the lens of trauma studies allows us greater insight into the beliefs that underpinned this religio-political rhetoric.

Much of this rhetorical use of typology generated accessible associations of Catholics with both biblical villains and with officials who persecuted and executed Protestants during the reign of Mary I. These associations created a typological network that reinforced the notion of English Protestants as an elect people, while at the same time exploring Protestant religio-political anxiety in the wake of various Catholic plots. Each chapter explores texts published in moments of Catholic “crisis” wherein typology and trauma form a recursive loop by which the parameters of the threat can be understood. The first chapter examines John Stubbs’s Discovery of a Gaping Gulf (1579) and his views of Protestant female monarchy and a sexualized Catholic threat in response to Elizabeth I’s proposed marriage to the French Catholic Duke of Anjou. The second chapter surveys popular and state responses to the first Jesuit mission to England in 1580. The final chapters consider the place of typology and trauma in works by mercantilist Thomas Milles in response to recusant equivocation following the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and in Thomas Middleton’s A Game at Chess (1624) as a response to the failure of marriage negotiations between the Protestant Prince Charles and the Catholic Spanish Infanta.

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2015