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Title: Mammon's room and Hieronimo's cloak : representation and identity in Ben Jonson's middle comedies.
Author: McEvoy, Sean
ISNI:       0000 0000 8397 5911
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2004
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Ben Jonson's middle comedies in particular have an astonishing energy, excitement and capacity to thrill. Where does this come from? Having surveyed recent Jonson criticism, I argue that Jonson's deep-rooted Stoicism and humanism make him hostile to the dissolution of personal identity produced by the rampant free market of Jacobean London, and to the `classical' episteme in Foucault's sense. Jonson's response is to write drama which is not mimetic; it embodies and continues the world, and thus organically re-unites signifier and signified. Both early modern and current theory are discussed in support of this claim. I argue that Jonson's commitment to the theory and practice of classical rhetoric entails a thoroughly materialist understanding of the workings of language. I look at the physical impact of Jonson's language on his audience. I argue that Jonson's middle comedies are best understood not as mimetic or even primarily representational. They are rhetorical displays by performers at play, who do not strive to signify an imagined on-stage world so much as to sport promiscuously with the conventions of popular and classical theatre. This is not classical mimesis, but theatre as raw phenomenon. In support of the argument I quote actors and directors. The effect is a kind of Erasmian lusus, where the audience are challenged to find a new and authentic moral understanding in a city where all solid moral landmarks have just melted into air. The final two chapters look at how this idea makes sense of the distinctive way that Jonson interpenetrates the `on-stage' and `off-stage' worlds as a matter of dramatic strategy. I produce a detailed reading of Jonson's employment of personation; his expositions and endings; his distinctive use of on-stage time; and his exploitation of the different modes of spatial representation on the early modem stage for ironic effect.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available