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Title: Querulous curs : early modern malcontentedness
Author: Dickinson, Annie
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis analyses and revises the concept of malcontentedness in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century literature, to argue that rather than simply designating a stock dramatic figure as held by previous scholarship, 'malcontent' is a broad, discursive category that has destabilizing effects in early modern literature and culture. I demonstrate that malcontentedness involves a specific harsh, satirical, and self-consciously performative linguistic style or mode, and analyse the appearance of this mode in drama and verse satire. I show that malcontentedness emerges in texts in stylistic, tonal, and structural ways, as well as through character. This approach allows me to explore the production of the malcontent as a subject position that makes possible the articulation of discontent with social conditions, and also to analyse the ways in which those previously excluded by the stock figure approach - namely, women - are able to appropriate elements of the malcontent discourse in order to critique the patriarchal systems in which they are held. I consider the ways in which a range of early modern literary texts express and explore malcontentedness; those studied in most detail include John Marston's The Malcontent, and collections of verse satires, Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, William Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Winter's Tale, and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil. Closely analysing these texts from the perspective of malcontentedness reveals that their writers used the malcontent discourse to engage in the interrogation of apparently fixed categories. Malcontentedness, I argue, destabilises categories of class, nation, and gender. It is produced by cultural anxieties about these areas as subject to change, yet also constitutes a position from which that which is apparently fixed can be critiqued and disrupted. More widely, this thesis demonstrates that malcontentedness interrogates concepts of truth and meaning; I situate malcontented speech alongside other modes of plain, bold truth-telling, and argue that it rethinks those traditions. By combining truth-speaking with self-conscious theatricality, malcontentedness destabilises any sense of the truth as stable or certain. Overall, this thesis argues that early modern malcontentedness functioned as an interrogative force that was used by writers to question and destabilise various aspects of early modern culture. It constitutes a much more important and wide-ranging mode for the articulation of discontent and uncertainty than has previously been acknowledged.
Supervisor: Baker, Naomi ; Schurink, Fred Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available