Abstract

In light of current critical controversies over periodicity, temporality, and historical inquiry—particularly the debate between "presentism" and "historicism"—this essay proposes new ways of imagining textual history by exploring radically diverse cultural relationships to time. Using the emergence in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century of a medical theory of 'nostalgia' as a brain disease in which afflicted sufferers imagine the green fields of home, this essays finds a new point of entry into understanding a notorious editorial crux in Shakespeare's play Henry V: Lewis Theobald's 1733 emendation of the Folio text's seemingly corrupt description of Falstaff's deathbed scene. Theobald famously emends the Folio's "a Table of green fields" with the conjectured reading "a' babled of green fields", thus laying the affective and interpretative groundwork for what would become, in successive centuries, a sentimentalized version both of Falstaff as a character, and of England's empire-building as a nation. The essay uses this extraordinary textual crux as a focal point for understanding how an eighteenth-century medical term, 'nostalgia', which was originally conceived as a disease involving a disordered relationship to place, evolved into a more generalized term involving a longing to return to a glorious, and misrecognized, past.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1933-7418
Print ISSN
1559-2936
Pages
pp. 72-83
Launched on MUSE
2009-06-19
Open Access
No
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