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Title: Turncoat poets of the English Revolution
Author: Allsopp, Niall
ISNI:       0000 0004 6063 3686
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Edmund Waller, William Davenant, Andrew Marvell, and Abraham Cowley were royalist poets who changed sides following the English Revolution, attracted to Cromwellian military power, and the reforming aims of the Independents. This thesis contributes to existing scholarship by showing that the poets engaged strongly with theories of allegiance, self-consciously returning to first principles - the natures of sovereignty and obligation - to develop a concept of allegiance that was contingent and transferrable. Their crucial influence was Hobbes. Hobbes collapsed partisan perspectives into a general theory of sovereignty constituted by a de facto protective and coercive power; this was grounded on a psychological analysis of humans' restless appetite for power. The poets' approach to Hobbes was crucially mediated by Machiavelli, who provided a less abstract account of the relationship between individual agency and collective institutions, and whose concept of virtù offered a model for how restless ambition could be harnessed to political order. An introductory chapter sketches out the intellectual background to this body of theory and reflects on the methods used to show how the poets dramatized it in their works. Chapter two considers the disintegration of Waller's courtly poetry under the pressure of civil war, and his resulting turn to rationalist theory. Chapters three and four focus on the immediate aftermath of the revolution, considering the synthesis of Hobbes' and Machiavelli's theories of military power ventured by Davenant, and the influence of Davenant's ideas on Marvell's Machiavellianism. Chapter five focuses on Cowley and his more religiously-inflected account of Hobbesian psychology and political obligations. Chapter six asks how the poets responded to the Restoration of Charles II, and in particular charts their influence on the younger poet John Dryden. With their emphasis on materialist psychology, the turncoat poets abandoned allegory in favour of a mode of dramatization which observed the contingent circumstances in which allegiances could be generated, dissolved, and transferred. They possessed a political conservatism, but a conceptual radicalism which presented a serious challenge to Anglican and constitutionalist discourses of Stuart monarchy.
Supervisor: Norbrook, David ; MacFaul, Tom Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Great Britain--History--Civil War ; 1642-1649--Literature and the war ; War and literature--Great Britain--History--17th century ; Poets ; English--Early modern ; 1500-1700--Political and social views ; Politics and literature--Great Britain--History--17th century