Abstract

This paper proposes that early modern English writers used plague discourse to explore contradictions in the constitution, configuration, and preservation of the body politic. The plague was the other side of the miracle, the figure by which early modern political philosophers theorized and debated interrelations between the mystical authority of the sovereign and the emergence of new forms of life. While plague legislation offered a paradigm of community based on immunization, local responses to the plague by writers such as Thomas Dekker, Hanoch Clapham, and George Wither called for neighborly and democratic forms of sociality. But the early modern English writer who experimented most dramatically with plague discourse was Michael Drayton. His plague poem, Moses, His Birth and Miracles, uses central themes and concerns from both plague legislation and protest literature to explore relations between reform-minded poetry and the plague and to account for the violence that attends political reform.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3786
Print ISSN
1531-0485
Pages
pp. 85-104
Launched on MUSE
2011-06-19
Open Access
No
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