Genealogies of Britishness: A Cultural and Literary Geography (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 2002 semester seminar led by Clare Carroll.

This seminar traced the development and contestation of divergent conceptions of Britain and Britishness in early modern literary, historical, and political texts to test the limits of the new British historiography. Comparing differences in myths of origin, history, language, law, politics, and religion among and within the four nations of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, the seminar investigated how and why British and local identities were conceived of as either compatible or irreconcilable. The period of investigation stretched from the revival of inherited notions of Britain in the reign of Elizabeth to the union of England and Scotland as Great Britain in 1707. Discussion focused on texts written at moments of particular crisis, including the Nine Years War, the Ulster plantation, and the rebellions in Scotland and Ireland in the 1640s. Readings from such authors as Camden, Buchanan, Spenser, Keating, Milton, and Petty (including poetry translated from Scots Gaelic, Irish, and Welsh) opened discussion about the ways English writers represented England's conquest and unifying use of the concept of Britain. The seminar also examined the ways Irish, Scots, Welsh, and even English writers in turn resisted or accommodated this imperfect, if at times effectively imposed, cultural, economic, and political domination and incorporation. Sessions addressed such topics as the authority of the monarch, the conflicting allegiances of subjects, the linguistic, religious, and political divisions within each of the nations, and each region's relation to European political and religious institutions.

Director: Clare Carroll is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of Circe's Cup: Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Ireland (2002), The "Orlando Furioso": A Stoic Comedy (1997), and coeditor, with Vincent Carey, of Beacon's Solon His Follie (1996).