Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Staging nationhood: Topographical liminality and chorographical representations in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama
by Kim, Jaecheol, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2011, 318; 3475332
Abstract (Summary)

The primary purpose of the present dissertation is to explore the burgeoning national imaginations staged in Elizabethan and Jacobean dramas, emphasizing how early modern English nationhood began to emerge by negotiating geo-political and cultural liminalities. This project specifically pays attention to "chorographical" accounts of Renaissance dramas: as the word's etymology—"khoros (region)"—suggests, this kind of writing illustrates regional consciousness, linking it with national sensibilities. Thus by reading early modern dramas as staged chorography the project surveys tensions between the centralized nation-state and still powerful regional allegiances in Elizabethan-Jacobean England.

As leading theorists of nationhood such as Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm, and Homi Bhabha claim, one of the idées reçues of nationhood is that it is a post-eighteenth-century phenomenon. Nonetheless, early modern literary historians have identified nationalist desire in sixteenth-century English history. For example, while for Richard Helgerson the time of English Renaissance and Reformation was indeed the historical era of nationalist writings, Liah Greenfeld argues that English nationalism as developed by the Tudors was "not the birth of a nation; it was the birth of the nations, the birth of nationalism." In this respect, the rise of public theatres in sixteenth-century England was the materialistic response par excellence to the formation of the centralized nation-state. If medieval religious drama was performed all over the British Isles, from Chester to York to Dublin to Glasgow to Cornwall, English Renaissance drama was, despite play troupes' occasional performances in provincial areas, a phenomenon almost exclusively observable in London, a result of geopolitical, demographic, material, and metropolitan centralizations on a national scale.

Since Tom Nairn, Hannah Arendt, and Homi Bhabha have argued that the sense of nationness is "ambiguity" or "in-betweenness," the question—how early modern theatres negotiate cultural and topographical liminalities—forms a crucial debate for the present project. Each chapter of this dissertation surveys the Renaissance stage's persistent representations of in-between topographical loci such as the uncentralized English regions above the Humber, the Lancastrian Duchy territories, the suburbs and liberties of metropolitan London, colonial-outposts such as Milford Haven (in Wales) and the Irish Pale, and English ports/forts like Dover that are open to Continental influences. The project demonstrates that early modern national politics heavily gravitate into these culturally and nationally hybrid realms, negotiating national alterities.

Other than regional-topographical issues, the persistent concerns of this dissertation are the definitions of nationhood and understanding of the key elements of the sense of nationhood. These are, indeed, vexed questions, for as Jose Carlos Mariategui states, the nation "is an abstraction, an allegory, a myth that does not correspond to a reality that can be scientifically defined." At a rational level, nationhood is impossible to define and it is marked only by absence, although it might be traced through its metaphoric effects. To fully grasp this paradox, the present research largely defines nationhood as a metaphoric form structurally "articulated" and "over(in)determined" by various social elements and close to what Stuart Hall calls historically articulated "conjuncture." By stressing early modern English nationhood primarily as an historical "articulation," the project rejects any theoretical attempts which define "nation" as a pan-historical, trans-geopolitical or universal concept. As the word "conjuncture" implies, early modern nationalism is articulated by various social elements such as class, gender, ethno-racial factors, print-capitalism, discursive practices, topographical representation, memories of the past, regionalism, metropolitanism, and colonialism. National imaginations in this period are formed by various metaphors and allegories such as "fraternity," "natio (birth/nature)," "patria (fatherland)," "elect community," "commonwealth" and an "organic body (defined by immunity)." Readings of Elizabethan-Jacobean dramas in the project analyze and translate these national metaphors in terms of socio-political contexts. Discussions of early modern English nationalism also inevitably raise questions such as what is the effect of absolutism in creating centralized English nationhood? what is the difference between the early modern English monarchy and nation? if my project mainly discusses "English" nationhood, what is its relationship to the national claim of Union under the name of Britain or Albion after the accession of King James? who and what groups are Others defined against English nationhood? and how is English nationalism articulated with colonialism or anti-colonialism? These questions are explored in the chapters of the dissertation (see the "overview" section at the end of the introductory chapter of this dissertation for the chapter summaries).

Key Words: Nation, Nationhood, Commonwealth, Chorography, Topography, Liminality, Internal Colonialism, Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, Shakespeare

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bono, Barbara J.
Commitee: Holstun, James, Schiff, Randy P.
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: English
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: British and Irish literature, Theater History
Keywords: Chorography, Dekker, Thomas, Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, Internal colonialism, Jonson, Ben, Middleton, Thomas, Nationhood, Norton, Thomas, Sackville, Thomas, Shakespeare, William, Topographical liminality, Topography
Publication Number: 3475332
ISBN: 978-1-124-93488-4
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