Self-given law : individualism as an ethics of interpretation in Ben Jonson
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Justice often doesn’t feel right. We make decisions according to rules that seem to weigh unfairly in favour of one person or another, to uphold an egregious principle, or to be plain wrong: we say life isn’t fair. Human rights law treats as unrealistic its foundational principle that humans are free and equal in dignity and rights. What we make of one another, however, entails an ethics of interpretation which this thesis locates in the realist dramaturgy of Ben Jonson (1572-1637). Focusing on Jonson’s comedies, the thesis identifies a relationship between legally-inflected seventeenth-century English drama and twentieth-century international human rights law. It focuses on four of Jonson’s comedies in which poetic making informs how individuals come to know and value each other; Volpone, or The Fox (1606), Epicene, or The Silent Woman (1609), Bartholomew Fair (1614), and The Devil Is an Ass (1616). By showing how poetic making constitutes individualism in Jonson, we can recover dignity as a realistic prospect. By reading individualism as an ethics of interpretation in the early modern period, we can open up questions of freedom and equality in our own.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-04-30
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 30th April 2024
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