Things 'necessary' and 'unnecessary': trash and trifles in early modern England, 1519-1614

Marchant, Katrina (2015) Things 'necessary' and 'unnecessary': trash and trifles in early modern England, 1519-1614. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the shifting representation of trash and trifles in the literature and art of sixteenth and early seventeenth century England. It connects previously disparate critical fields – religion, politics, national identity, travel, literary criticism – in order to offer new perspectives on the period. The investigation of the terms ‘trash’ and ‘trifles’ at the centre of this project reinstates a crucial literary perspective to the historical study of early modern England’s crises in spiritual and material value, whilst retaining a keen awareness of the importance of interconnected historical contexts ranging from the mercantile to the spiritual and the cultural. I have traced the connected development of the terms trash and trifles across the period 1519-1614, and closely examined their use in response to various crises in value, whether spiritual or mercantile. How writers of polemic and drama develop a language in which to articulate such crises, and the ways in which that language necessarily combines elements of both the spiritual and the mercantile, is a central theme. Key elements of this development are marked by Queen Katherine Parr’s invective about the mercantile corruption of spiritual treasure with material papal ‘tryfles’; Sir Thomas Smith’s assertion of the spiritual immorality of material ‘trifles’; Thomas Harriot and John White’s presentation of the mercantile and spiritual benefit of exporting trash and trifles to the New World; and in the staging of trash and trifles in a series of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century plays which, I argue, were in part designed to mount a defense against anti-theatrical allegations regarding the effeminate valuelessness of playing. This thesis illustrates how the deployment of the terms trash and trifles in early modern England can be productively used to trace the shaping of the Protestant English commonwealth as a destinct, secure and valuable entity in an unstable and increasingly global post-Reformation world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general > NX0440 History of the arts > NX0450.5 16th century. Renaissance
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general > NX0440 History of the arts > NX0451 17th century
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0411 Renaissance and Reformation. 16th century
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0421 Elizabethan era (1550-1640)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 09:08
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2017 10:45
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/55175

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