Speaking England: nationalism(s) in early modern literature and culture



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This dissertation explores conceptions of nationalism in early modern English literature and culture. Specifically, it examines multiple definitions of nation in dramatic works by William Shakespeare (Cymbeline), John Fletcher (Bonduca), Thomas Dekker (The Shoemaker's Holiday), and Robert Daborne (A Christian Turned Turk) as well as in antiquarian studies of England by William Camden (Britannia and Remains Concerning Britain) and Richard Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence). This dissertation argues that early modern English nationalism is a dynamic phenomenon that extends beyond literary and historical genres typically associated with questions of national identity, such as history plays, legal tracts, and chronicle histories. Nationalism, this dissertation demonstrates, appears in Roman-Britain romances and tragedies, city comedies, and both dramatic and prose accounts of piracy. Nation appears in myriad voices - from ancient British queens to shoemakers and pirates. And the nationalisms they articulate are as varied as the genres in which they appear as nation is negotiated both across and within these works. Furthermore, this dissertation illustrates that not only are concepts of nation and national identity being explored, the very terms on which to construct nation are being defined and re-defined. Nation is variously filtered through a myriad of issues including the influence of the monarch (particularly James I), origin, language, gender, class, ethnicity, religion and national rivals. This dissertation also discusses works which move us beyond our pre-conceived notions about nation by advocating more corporate cosmopolitan models. The models are based on such qualities as membership, occupation, productivity and the pursuit of wealth rather than birth order or location. These corporate and piratical nationalisms extend beyond the confining geopolitical borders of most concepts of nation. Early modern English nationalism is not singularly defined by the monarch, the church, the legal system, or even antiquarian studies of Britain and England. It is not singularly defined by any one voice or text.