Reproducing race : early modern bodies and the construction of national difference / Jean Feerick.

Feerick, Jean.
ix, 249 p. ; 29 cm.

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Penn dissertations -- English. (search)
English -- Penn dissertations. (search)
In early modern Britain, the term complexion designated an internal condition of the body then thought to be partly legible on the body's surface through the varieties of skin coloration (ruddy, white, black, tawny). In time, the term would come to denote almost exclusively the external appearance of the body, occluding any reference to the body's inner temperament. Resisting the essentialisms that eventually congealed in this term, my dissertation retrieves early modern conceptions of the malleability of the body. Temperaments, like skin coloration, existed on a continuum and were fungible. "Reproducing Race" explores how the body's perceived variability and permeability collided with emergent colonial initiatives, pointing up pervasive anxieties that seemed to demand the production of more stable systems of difference.
Until recently, scholarship on early modern race has been based on anachronistically modern conceptualizations. My introduction historicizes these early modern discourses by demonstrating their roots in pre-modern paradigms, which read physical difference as a function of external forces such as diet, climate, and exercise. The first chapter focuses on how these constructions of embodied difference were deployed as an instrument of English colonial efforts in Ireland. Here I read Book 2 of Spenser's Faerie Queene as offering an "anatomy" of the Irish. In the second chapter I attend to the material practices of nurture in Ireland, observing the physical proximity Irish wetnurses enjoyed with regard to English heirs. I excavate anxieties regarding her power to rewrite English paternity through her breastmilk, defined in humoral theory as concocted blood. In the third chapter I read Henry V and the adventure play Stukeley beside a range of military tracts to explore a widespread ambivalence regarding English embodiment abroad in Ireland. I compare each play's response to this experience of emasculation with the dietary mimicry espoused by actual soldiers. In my fourth chapter I read Cymbeline as engaging debates surrounding the Virginia plantation effort, since both texts seek to redress a process of racial degeneration by appealing to an originary British land and culture. They both also record fears of transformations in unfamiliar directions through sustained contact with a foreign environment.
Advisers: Rebecca Bushnell; Peter Stallybrass; Phyllis Rackin.
Thesis (Ph.D. in English) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 3072996.
Bushnell, Rebecca, advisor.
Stallybrass, Peter, advisor.
Rackin, Phyllis, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.