Theses Doctoral

Publishing the Stuarts: Occasional Literature and Politics from 1603 to 1625

Calcagno, Rebecca

This dissertation examines occasional events at the Jacobean court through the literature written about them--the largely understudied and yet voluminous occasional works published in inexpensive formats during the first Stuart reign. Through a series of contextualized readings of key occasional events and texts, I argue that these poems and pamphlets not only move beyond the epideictic to engage in key political debates, but also that they present competing visions of the Stuart realm and illustrate the international frame of its court. By examining the relationship between occasional works and the "real" events which they discuss, I show how writers sought to persuade the public to accept their political viewpoints through fictional representations of the Stuarts.

More importantly, I demonstrate the need to look beyond representations of the Stuarts sponsored by the Stuarts such as masques to fully understand their iconography. Attending to the contexts which shaped occasional literature and the meaningful ways in which authors yoked descriptions of state events to commentaries on political issues, demands a new history of occasional events at court and a new understanding of the Stuart court as polycentric in nature and international in scope. Scholars have long acknowledged the importance of occasional events at court, but dismissed the printed works published about them as ephemeral propaganda.

To understand the court, they turned instead to manuscript correspondence and entertainments such as masques, from which they created an image of the Stuarts as a patriarchal family centered on James. By studying representations of the Stuarts in printed works intended for an audience comprised of more than the royal family, nobles, and courtiers, I seek to show a different vision of the Stuarts, one that is international, multi-centric, popular, and poly-vocal. Each chapter focuses on a major court event and the literary response to it: the 1606 state visit to London of the Danish king Christian IV; the death of Henry, Prince of Wales, in London in 1612; the wedding of Elizabeth, daughter of James VI and I and his consort Anna of Denmark, to Frederick, Count Palatine, in London in 1613; and the funeral of Anna in London in 1618.

Offering densely contextualized readings of representative occasional works, I argue that authors used these events to envision idealized relationships between, respectively, Britain and Denmark; Britain and France; Britain and Germany; and, England and Scotland. In each case, they picture one member of the royal family establishing and maintaining these relationships. In other words, they imagined different members of the royal family in critical positions of power, and as mediating, through these events, a wide range of religious and political controversies. By examining representational wars over the images of various members of the Stuarts, I hope to offer a complex portrait of a royal family at the center of international debates. These representations which insist on the multiplicity and internationality of the Stuart courts reveal a complex set of cultural and political exchanges across Europe.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Crawford, Julie
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 1, 2013