Theses Doctoral

Cultivating Difference in Early Modern Drama and the Literature of Travel

Akhimie, Patricia

This dissertation argues that the early modern discourse of conduct, which produced social difference within English households and communities, took on greater importance in a newly global world. In the conduct-obsessed culture of early modern England, two competing and contradictory beliefs about the nature of social difference emerged. The first of these was an ideology of cultivation, a widespread belief that social identity was malleable, that socio-economic status could be determined by measuring an individual's adherence to accepted codes of conduct. The second belief depended upon the idea that social difference was fixed and naturally determined, and thus that somatic differences such as sex and race were deeply significant. For those bearing stigmatized somatic marks, particularly women and non-Europeans, access to cultivating strategies was systematically circumscribed, and this process of socio-economic differentiation was understood as the natural consequence of bodily difference. This dissertation examines the discourse of conduct at work in both domestic and global contexts through early modern English conduct literature, guides to self-improvement through specific cultivating activities or strategies; through plays that stage cultivation as beneficial to self, community, and nation; and through travel writing, where authors attempt to make sense of unfamiliar customs and behaviors. In these works the social and material benefits of cultivation achieved through practices such as good husbandry, educational travel, and hunting for sport are affirmed, even as the limited access of some groups to these same cultivating strategies is reiterated.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Howard, Jean
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 4, 2013