InstitutionUniversity of Toronto
DisciplineEnglish (Renaissance Literature)
Following eighteen months of research with online editions of 470 Troy-related texts published in London between 1550 and 1605, I have created an MS Access database that includes over 45,000 data points related to what I describe as the Elizabethan Matter of Troy. Using individual keywords associated with each of the more than 3,000 Troy references included in this database, I am interested in harnessing technology to analyze and interpret relationships between these Troy-related references. Keywords range between familiar nouns (e.g., Achilles, Britain’s Trojan origins, Hector, and Homer), and more abstract keyword associations (e.g., translatio imperii, euhemerism, self-fashioning). I am interested in designing a big data project that will allow me to design a dynamic, network analysis of this database. This project serves as an intermediary stage leading towards the September 2015 start to my post-doctoral book project: “Troy and the Elizabethan Historical Imaginary.” This monograph, a comprehensive analysis of Troy’s extra-literary presence in Elizabethan England, aims to serve as a foundation for what may eventually become a new critical context for interpreting Troy-related literature published during the early modern period. This new context builds upon and moves beyond existing literary source studies and stage-specific investigations.
Critics who address the ways that Elizabethan authors adapted what “was quite simply the most important event in the legendary history of the ancient world” (Wells 119) are aware that, in addition to renown for “its antiquity and undying beauty” and for “the fame and greatness of the early writers who had treated it” (Tatlock 673), this “hugely familiar story” (Bevington xvi) was “available for a variety of ideological tasks” (Shepard 57). Early modernists are exceedingly aware of Troy’s influence upon Western culture. Available scholarship concerned with the early modern adaptation, reception, and transmission of Troy-related classical literature inherited from Homer, Virgil, and Ovid reflects the substance and depth of research in this field.
By contrast, there is no commensurate body of scholarship to support interpretations of Troy-related subjects that extend beyond imaginative literature. My research attends to this gap by introducing a multidisciplinary approach that endeavors to bridge current understanding of Troy’s literary implications through an investigation of Troy’s extra-literary presence in late-sixteenth century publications. A dearth of scholarship related to the Elizabethan matter of Troy means that today’s understanding of the ways in which authors such as Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, George Chapman, George Peele, John Lyly, Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, William Shakespeare, and William Warner, to name only a few of the better known authors of the period, engaged this collection of materials remains partial. Elizabethans negotiated a kaleidoscope-like collection of Troy-related details within a wide range of literary and extra-literary publications. Interpretations of literary engagements with the Elizabethan matter of Troy require critical lenses that facilitate more complex assessments of the subject’s variable reception for sixteenth-century authors and readers.
Employing an interdisciplinary approach that combines scholarship on Elizabethan works of fiction, extra-literary publications, and artefacts (i.e., not printed texts), my research programme seeks to understand the representation of the matter of Troy during the Elizabethan era through an investigation of the legend’s status as a cultural symbol. This study’s focus on extra-literary fields of cultural meanings that were personified in the characters and iconographic episodes associated with the myth of Troy between 1558 and 1603 complements existing scholarship on Troy’s literary implications. My research analyses Troy’s circulation in such disciplines as architecture, aesthetics, ceramics, eulogies, genealogies, grammar, historiography, literature, medicine, music, pedagogy, philosophy, rhetoric, sermons, state papers, tapestries, and the visual arts.
My research programme has developed under the supervision of Professor Jill Levenson whose early study of Troy and the monumental tradition in tapestries and literature serves as this project’s point of origin. Professor Levenson is the editor of the Oxford edition of Romeo and Juliet and she has extensive experience investigating and writing about the adaptation of popular legends in early modern England. Her expertise in this field has been instrumental in shaping the structure and vision of this project.
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