Theses Doctoral

The Constant Paradox: Constancy, Genre, and Literary Tradition in the English Civil Wars

Zhang, Rachel

This dissertation interrogates writers’ references to “constancy” during the English civil wars, reading the debate surrounding this vexed and multifarious term as indicative of a broader examination of constancy as a concept. Through generic case studies of the emblem book, prose romance, epic, and country house poem, I show how writers used constancy’s semantic and contextual slippage to participate in key debates of the civil wars; Hester Pulter, Percy Herbert, John Milton, Thomas Carew, Mildmay Fane, and Andrew Marvell deploy constancy as they intervene in civil war polemic surrounding kingship, property ownership, liturgy, and England’s relationship with the wider world. These cases, I argue, show the interaction between writers’ reevaluation of constancy and their reevaluation of inherited literary traditions. In interrogating constancy, writers articulate and even inspire innovation in literary genre, thereby demonstrating not the destruction of literary form during the civil wars, but writers’ ability to accommodate established literary tradition to dynamic religiopolitical circumstances.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Murray, Molly
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 22, 2018