Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 20.3 Summer 2020


An Ambivalent View of Colonialism: The Spinozist Design for a Settlement in New Netherland
Marrigje Paijmans

Franciscus van den Enden (1602–1674) was an Amsterdam Latin school owner, radical egalitarian, and enigmatic figure in Spinoza’s circle. Among his sparse publications is the Brief Account of New Netherland (1662), a design for a democratic settlement in North America. Although Brief Account does not mention Spinoza by name, it is in many ways reminiscent of his naturalist philosophy. This article explores how Spinozist ideas function in Van den Enden’s utopia, focusing on the notion of “sovereignty,” the full right and power of a governing body over itself. The first part of the article demonstrates how Van den Enden’s representation of Native American society functions as a model for his self-governing settlement. The representation in projecting Spinozist ideas of sovereignty on Native American society can be considered a radical—if covert—critique of European state power as well as a typical case of Eurocentrism. The second part aims to reconcile Van den Enden’s critique of European state power with the fact that his design for a settlement is implicated in the overseas extension of Dutch sovereignty. The article concludes that Brief Account conveys an ambivalent view of colonialism as both an extreme expression of and an opportunity for escape from European state power.

Patronage and Commercial Print in Conflict: Laurence Eusden’s Reception and Afterlife
Leah Orr

This article considers the work, reputation, and afterlife of Laurence Eusden, an English poet laureate (1718–1730) pilloried by Alexander Pope. Eusden chiefly wrote panegyric and occasion poems, which were prominent genres of eighteenth-century poetry but have fallen out of favor with modern readers. An examination of his reputation and afterlife reveals how and why his work was so quickly devalued and suggests that public relationships to state poetic propaganda were changing in the years after 1714. This article argues that Eusden’s success and his subsequent decline in reputation exemplify the conflicts between patronage and commercial print, high and low art, and politics and poetics in early eighteenth-century Britain.

Messengers Were Harmed in the Making of This History: Narrating the Past in Antony and Cleopatra
John Yargo

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra repeatedly stages scenes of historical knowledge-making, often foregrounded through two devices: historical mini-narratives and the use of messengers. These devices, over the course of the play, articulate three successive models of the exchange and circulation of historical knowledge. These models effectively explain how we make sense of historical information and, in Cleopatra’s eulogy of Antony, project a sophisticated understanding of historical subjectivity. Enobarbus’s Venus speech, as one model of historiography, emerges from the discourse of interpersonal credibility. His narration of past events is underscored by conditions that legitimize his claims of historical knowledge. Through the play’s imagining of counterfactual history, this essay considers how its representation of Emperor Antony as a “path not taken” in Roman history challenges teleological assumptions that underlie traditional historical narrative. The article shows how Cleopatra’s ironic deconstruction of the myths formed around the dead Antony affords her agency over the making of history. While mocking the pretensions of historical authority, her manipulation of messengers provides a fresh construction of temporality and narrativity. Finally, this essay turns to the ways in which Antony and Cleopatra’s mediations on historiography might inform and complicate a scholarly intervention in contemporary “alt-right” appropriations of early modern culture.

“For the Debt of Blood”: Form, Rhetoric, and Performance in Catherine of Aragon’s Letters to Ferdinand of Aragon and Charles V, 1502–1536
Maria Teresa Micaela Prendergast

Although we have about seventy extant letters written by Catherine of Aragon—most of them in her hand—there has been virtually no treatment of this queen consort’s epistolary voice. This neglect may stem from a scholarly tendency to privilege women letter writers with a reputation for transgression or independence over those, like Catherine, with a reputation for modesty and deference. Such perspectives overlook how Catherine—like many early modern women letter writers—actively and assertively scripted her reputation for modesty and conjugal loyalty. This essay considers how Catherine, over a period of thirty-five years, learned to move from writing expressive and original, but largely ineffective, letters to using the nuanced dialogic possibilities within letter-writing conventions so as to shape constructive epistolary networks. Her ability to skillfully navigate such networks allowed her to enlist powerful male allies whose active interventions forced Henry VIII to delay the annulment of his marriage to Catherine by five years. And Catherine’s rhetorical self-presentation as Henry’s pious, loyal, deferential wife was so successful that it has dominated our cultural memory for the last five hundred years—despite active efforts by Henry and his allies to portray her as Henry’s foreign, treacherous, and illegitimate spouse.



Rethinking Feminism in Early Modern Studies: Gender, Race, and Sexuality ed. by Ania Loomba and Melissa E. Sanchez (review)
Willnide E. Lindor

Women on the Edge in Early Modern Europe ed. by Lisa Hopkins and Aidan Norrie (review)
Britt Eyre-Mitchell