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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Winter 2017, Vol. 17.1


Plotting Indigenous Stories, Land, and People: Primordial Titles and Narrative Mapping in Colonial Mexico

Kelly S. Mcdonough

Spanish Crown policies of the colonial period in Mexico brought waves of forced indigenous reorganization (congregación) and legal processes of formalized distribution and titling of lands (composición). Both threatened and at times negated indigenous land rights and by extension corporate unity. At the same time, the Spanish court system provided a venue for indigenous peoples to advocate for themselves and contest encroachment of their territories. In this context, many indigenous communities of Mexico brought forth indigenous-language alphabetic and pictographic manuscripts—today known as "primordial titles"—as evidence of their rights to lands. Through an analysis of the Nahuatl-language primordial title of San Matías Cuixinco, this essay offers a systematic analysis of the culturally specific ways in which the stories in primordial titles worked together to ensure the indigenous people's survival as a coherent socio-political unit vis-à-vis their land base. Emphasis is placed on the context in which titles were produced and circulated, the material form they took due to cultures in contact, and a consideration of the underlying conceptual framework—(i)ixiptlatl complex, cellular principle, and macehua—that would have made these manuscripts meaningful to the people who created them.

Good Grammar, Possessive Pronouns, and Preposterous Possessions in The Taming of the Shrew

Elizabeth Ann Mackay

With their focus on Bianca's Latinate lessons in act 3 of The Taming of the Shrew, scholars have long overlooked the play's indebtedness to a vernacular English grammar. Drawing attention to such vernacular "characters" as possessive pronouns, shrews, hysteron proteron, and other preposterous rhetorical figures, this essay considers new possibilities for reading The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare's representations of this vernacular grammar, and the purpose and message of Katherine's final speech. The essay considers what it means that, in both early modern England and in The Taming of the Shrew, English takes precedence over Latin; that possessive pronouns become keys to interpreting lessons in an English grammar; and that pronouns, even in their proper places, become sites of "preposterous possession." Strategically employing possessive pronouns in her final speech, Katherine, the shrew of this play who is (supposedly) tamed, enacts some preposterous possessions of her own. Through a close reading of a wide range of early modern texts alongside The Taming of the Shrew, the essay navigates a variety of contexts in order to reveal their continuities, rather than thinking about them as mutually exclusive. Such contextualizations illuminate and culminate in a reading of Katherine's final speech, which demonstrates how her grammar disrupts and overturns grammatical and gendered orders and allows her (and Shakespeare, too) to shape and imagine a new order of things. Indeed, Katherine embodies a burgeoning English vernacular, and as such, she is a figure through which Shakespeare explores that vernacular's critical moment, thereby reflecting Shakespeare's understanding of and participation in a changing educational landscape of early modern England. 

Grafting and Ecological Imperialism in John Fletcher's Bonduca

William Steffen

For early modern English horticultural writers, the practice of grafting was closely associated with colonial acclimatization and offered a means of either enhancement or debasement for graft and grafter alike. Drawing upon this horticultural discourse, this article investigates the John Fletcher play Bonduca (ca. 1612) and its pervasive treatment of grafting as a meditation on the horticultural practices that were considered essential to early modern English colonialism. Through imagery and gestures of grafting, Bonduca attends to the ecological repercussions of Britain's colonial history and explores the potential risks of colonial expansion. In addition, through representing the Roman exposure to several metaphorical diseases, the play registers a pathogenic understanding of disease transmission. The play's metaphorical illnesses also imagine a reversal of the effect of Old World diseases on indigenous human populations in the New World. Rather than promoting a pro-or anti-imperialist agenda, these theatrical representations of grafting convey a complex understanding of empire formation, where non-human actants play a more prominent role in determining the outcome of a political, military, and colonial struggle than human agents. But rather than exonerate colonial conquerors, Bonduca's focus on the non-human reveals an early modern understanding of colonial conquest as determined not by the inherent superiority of one group of humans over another, but by the will of the graft. 

Dreaming Converts in the Seventeenth Century: The Case of Philip Dandulo and Thomas Warmstry's The Baptized Turk

Abigail Shinn

This article focuses on a dream embedded within a description of the conversion and baptism of a Muslim man in London in 1657. The Baptized Turk (1658), written by the royalist Thomas Warmstry, tells the story of Rigep Dandulo, a twenty-four-year-old from Smyrna who was baptised by Dr. Peter Gunning at Exeter House chapel. In The Baptized Turk, Warmstry describes and analyzes an elaborate dream experienced by Dandulo and also provides his readers with an extensive guide to dream interpretation. Dream accounts appear frequently in mid-seventeenth-century radical Protestant conversion narratives, but Warmstry makes a case for the role of dreaming in substantiating the converting power of moderate Protestantism. This frames the narrative as a riposte to the gathered churches' dreaming converts, and demonstrates the extent to which royalists utilized and transformed the discursive strategies of their religious and political rivals when promoting their own agenda.

Margaret Cavendish, the Royal Society, and the Alchemy of the Arabian Sands

Bethany Williamson

While recent studies have begun to consider Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World (1666) in its global contexts, her repeated references to the "golden sands" of Arabia have gone unmentioned. This essay explores how the pursuit of scientific progress in Restoration England was articulated, contested, and refined through such strategic references to "the East." Situating Cavendish's work within a broader scientific-historical discourse of English progress and Eastern regress, the essay argues that Cavendish reframes romance and alchemy—two modes of deferral that many of her contemporaries were rejecting as antiquated and obsolete—as ways to imagine England's future fame and fortune in relation to the treasures of the East.

Book Review

Reading Olympe de Gouges by Carol Sherman (review)

Meili Steele