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Author Gustafson, Daniel
Title Stuart Restorations: History, Memory, Performance
book jacket
Descript 328 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 72-10, Section: A, page: 3753
Advisers: Joseph Roach; Elliott Visconsi
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Yale University, 2011
This dissertation uncovers the cultural and literary afterlife of the period of the Stuart Restoration (1660--1688) within Britain's long eighteenth century. Remembered for a rakish stage, a hedonistic court, and the experiments of Charles II and James II with absolutism, the Restoration epitomized a culture of self-licensed excess. While conventional studies suggest that such excesses were supplanted by advances in liberal subjectivity, sociability, and representative government, I contend that as the Stuarts' political power failed, they gained a stronghold in the British literary imagination. Eighteenth-century authors and public figures, I argue, obsessively re-enact the Stuart past, finding behavioral models in the generic performances of heroic drama and romance and in the public poses of the courtly libertine. These models offer the perceived ability to perform acts of liberal self-possession within the constraints of modern institutions of governance; but in a logic of performance---which privileges repetition as well as innovation---such acts of autonomy also restore the excesses of Stuart absolute rule in the realm of social relations. Reading eighteenth-century personal identity as a matter of roles and poses rather than as authentic or innate, I argue that liberal subjectivity is haunted by the ghosts of an absolutist past tied to Restoration personages and behaviors
Drawing upon contemporary theories of memory and performance, I explore how representations of Stuart absolutist behaviors circulate in and among the imagined spaces of the theater or the written page and the real spaces of eighteenth-century London. In reading media forms like theatrical revivals and novels alongside the productions, poses, and bodily behaviors of writers and performers, my study demonstrates the widespread, often unsettling influence that later Stuart culture retained long after the dynasty lost the throne. My chapters trace this cultural memory as it inheres in the plays of Aphra Behn, John Dryden, and John Crowne in the 1680s, in the role of the Restoration rake in the drama and dramatic criticism of Richard Steele, John Dennis, and Nicholas Rowe, in Daniel Defoe's novels of the 1720s, and in the public posturing of social actors like James Boswell and demagogues like John Wilkes under George III's early reign in the 1760s. In examining absolutism's devolution from a style of monarchical rule to a pose or practice that individuals may enact, I offer a reconsideration of the traditional narratives of eighteenth-century political and theatrical history and I suggest that the literary responses to large socio-political shifts---such as that between 1660 and 1760---necessarily involve the haunting processes of continuity as much as they do transitions to modernity
School code: 0265
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 72-10A
Subject Literature, English
Theater History
Alt Author Yale University
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