This dissertation explores the possibility of an early modern cultural materialism in selected dramatic works of Thomas Middleton in which fasting plays a prominent thematic role. The once venerable Christian practice of fasting was compartmentalized into secular and religious components in the wake of the Protestant Reformation in England even as its overall practical contour was preserved largely intact. It was subjected to conflicting representations and programs for reform, and appropriated by differing political and ecclesiastical factions. The vicissitudes that beset fasting offered a fertile ground for cultivating an understanding about the nature of the material basis of cultural formations and the historical dynamic governing their fates. It is this indigenous cultural materialist understanding, I argue, that Middleton's treatment of fasting in his dramatic works exemplifies.
The first chapter offers a history of fasting from the early church to its secularization under Queen Elizabeth as Protestant status quo ante in reference to which later departures and appropriations took place. One such departure by King James is the subject of the next chapter on A Chaste Maid in Cheapside in which the king's attempt to re-sacralize fasting is subjected to a materialist satire and made into a springboard for imagining a utopia of a specifically materialist kind. The next chapter on The Puritan contextualizes the play in terms of the puritan attempts to incorporate fasting as part of the Protestant prayer regime in the place of cunning folk's witchcraft and Catholic ecclesiastical magic. Masque of Heroes and Christmas keeping at the Jacobean Inner Temple are the subjects of the last chapter. I discuss the prominence in the masque of the anthropomorphized Fasting Day in connection with inter-generational and inter-constituency struggle for the custodianship of the valued custom of Christmas keeping.
These studies represent a series of historicist contributions to Middleton scholarship on the individual works. More broadly, they constitute an attempt to exploit insights from cultural history and material culture studies to broaden the scope of the study of religion in early modern English drama.
|Commitee:||Archer, John M., Blake, Bill, Gilman, Ernest B., Guillory, John, Halpern, Richard|
|School:||New York University|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||European history, British and Irish literature|
|Keywords:||Early modern material culture, Fasting, Middleton, Thomas, Post-Reformation England, d.1627|
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