Abstract

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.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3786
Print ISSN
1531-0485
Pages
pp. 68-96
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-21
Open Access
No
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