Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Katherine C. Little
This dissertation takes as its subject early modern England's enduring fascination with its national past. I argue that accounts of English history in plays, poetry, and prose treatises were designed not only to represent history, but to make readers and viewers experience the past in emotional and embodied ways. In chapters covering Edward Hall's Union of the Houses of Lancaster and York, A Mirror For Magistrates, Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare's English history plays, and Milton's History of Britain, I analyze how these various works enable readers and spectators to feel and thus experience the past in an interactive fashion. In this way, the texts I address craft experiences of felt temporality in which the past seemingly unfolds in the present.
This project intervenes in two subfields of early modern studies that have previously been quite distinct. First, while the "affective turn" has shown how discourses of emotion play a constitutive role in aesthetics, this approach has often elided historiography and history writing; meanwhile, scholarship on the Renaissance fascination with history has overemphasized the period's relation to the past as solely an experience of loss. My argument builds on and emends these approaches to show that the longstanding appeal of historical genres in England lay in this ability to represent the past as happening again and felt in the here and now. The texts I examine represent history as a mode of being-in-time in which distinctions between past and present are blurred. Therefore, my project advances a larger argument for how emotion can structure a subject's experience of time in ways that defy linear models of temporality.
Lo, Melanie Catherine, "Affective History, Felt Time, and Embodied Pasts in Early Modern England" (2020). English Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 113.
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