Imperial Anxiety in Thomas Hughes’s The Misfortunes of Arthur. Derrick Spradlin, Auburn University at Montgomery.
This essay argues that Thomas Hughes's 1587 play, The Misfortunes of Arthur, uses the legend of King Arthur to warn against contemporary English imperialist pursuits at the expense of domestic stability and security. A look at the Arthur figure in other works will reveal that during the early modern period Arthurian imagery perennially included imperial conquest and the geographical expansion of the realm. This aspect of the legend becomes elemental to Renaissance deployments of Arthur. At the same time in England, enlargement of the realm through colonization existed as an issue of great importance. Amid the widespread discussion of imperialist endeavor stand some texts that promote empire expansion but, at the same time, communicate a sense of regret and unease about it, a sense that the imperial project has gone awry before fully beginning. Hughes's play positions itself within these conventions of equating the Arthur myth with empire expansion and of conveying trepidation about imperialist undertakings. A reading of The Misfortunes of Arthur in light of these other works allows an Arthur figure to emerge that, one, is quite different than the more familiar chivalric, glorious king and, two, is quite helpful in piecing together the multifaceted event of English Renaissance imperialism.
(M)others and selves: Identity formation and/in relationship in early modern women’s self-writings. Ulrike Tancke, Trier University.
Whilst modern (masculine) individualism relies on an entirely self-reliant concept of identity, women are often regarded as perceiving themselves fundamentally in relation to others. Thus deviating from the male, normative model, women's senses of self have been considered to be less secure and coherent but also, in some feminist accounts, more powerful because constituted collectively. Looking at a variety of female self-writings from the early seventeenth century, I will analyse in how far early modern women's strategies of 'self-fashioning' were, as Stephen Greenblatt suggests with regard to male writers, always to some extent undermined by an 'alien, strange or hostile' other.
My primary focus is on the mothers' advice literature of the period, which presents mother-child relationships as simultaneously asserting and undermining a firm selfhood on the female writer's part. This observation is related to similarly ambiguous contemporary discourses on motherhood as well as twentieth-century feminist psychoanalysis. Simultaneity of submission and empowerment can be observed with regard to early modern women's accounts of personal relationships in general.
My readings prompt a reconceptualisation of the role of the other for (early modern woman's) identity formation, one that can only be grasped as a process of negotiation between affirmation and threat.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2005-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).