A rhetoric of nostalgia on the English stage, 1587-1605
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In locating the idea of nostalgia in early modern English drama, ‘A Rhetoric of Nostalgia on the English Stage, 1587-1605’ recovers an influential and under-examined political discourse in Elizabethan drama. Recognizing how deeply Renaissance culture was invested in conceptualizing the past as past and in privileging the cultural practices and processes of memory, this thesis asserts nostalgia’s embeddedness within that culture and its consequently powerful rhetorical role on the English Renaissance stage. The introduction situates Elizabethan nostalgia alongside nostalgia’s postmodern conceptualizations. It identifies how my definition of early modern nostalgia both depends on and diverges from contemporary arguments about nostalgia, as it questions nostalgia’s perceived conservatism and asserts its radicalizing potential. I define a rhetoric of nostalgia with regard to classical and Renaissance ideas of rhetoric and locate it within a body of sixteenth-century political discourses. In the ensuing chapters, my analyses of Shakespeare’s drama formulate case studies reached, in each instance, through an exploration of the plays’ socio-political context. Chapter Two’s analysis of The First Part of the Contention contextualizes Shakespeare’s development of a rhetoric of nostalgia and investigates connections between rhetorical form and nostalgia. I demonstrate the cultural currency of the play’s nostalgic proverbial discourse through a discussion of Protestant writers interested in mocking the idea of a preferable Catholic past. Chapter Three argues that Richard II’s nostalgic discourse of lost hospitality functions as a political rhetoric evocative of the socio-economic problems of the mid-1590s and of the changing landscape of English tradition instigated by the Reformation. In Chapter Four, Julius Caesar and Ben Jonson’s Sejanus constitute a final analysis of the relationship between a rhetoric of nostalgia and politics by examining the rise of Tacitism. The plays’ nostalgic language stimulates an awareness to the myriad ways in which rhetoric questions politics in both dramas.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Embargo Date: Electronic version restricted until 10th May 2020
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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