Foundational critical work on early modern European literature has probed the interrelationships between an accelerating ‘economy’ (in the modern sense) and imaginative transformations of affective, instrumental and sexual relations of the household or ‘oeconomy’. More recently, however, these critical questions have given way to more urgent questions of decolonization, the racialization of slavery and environmental exploitation.
Our two workshops will start from the idea that imagining ‘oeconomy’ is also racially and environmentally salient. That is, that thinking about representations of the early modern English household and its credit, honour, kin and wealth generation in relation to the racialization of transatlantic slavery and legitimization of sea spoilation.
We will look at how early modern texts mediate ancient stories and theories of slavery, freedom and the sea. We’ll look at four primary texts: Plautus’s Rudens or The Rope; Shakespeare’s Pericles; Hugo Grotius’s Mare Liberum or The Free Sea (tr. Richard Hakluyt) and John Selden’s Mare Clausum or The Dominion, or Ownership of the Sea (tr. Marchamont Nedham). Short passages to be discussed are available below as are links to the full texts for those who wish to consult them.
Part of our aim is to examine the ways in which early modern ‘economic’ and legal discourses about what can and can’t be owned are themselves affective, figurative, poetic, anthropomorphic – not separable from discourses of home, family, sexuality, desire and honour – and to consider what this can tell us about legitimating discourses of slavery, commerce and colonization.
These workshops are open to all. They will take place on 24 and 25 May, from 12.00 to 2.30pm in the Mure Room, Merton College. Details for those wishing to participate online will be available in due course.
Lunch will be provided. Participants are asked to register via Eventbrite here for catering purposes.