Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation examines the intersection of the English antiquarian and colonial imaginations in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I augment three scholarly traditions—postcolonialism, memory studies, and ecocriticism—to argue that settler attitudes about land inflected the literary production of historical memory. Early modern authors who represented England on page and stage, I show, wrote under the influence of two nascent but revolutionary forces: national remembrance and national expansion. If advocates of colonization sought to prove England’s dominion over desired Atlantic territory by imagining prior, legendary conquests, they also envisioned the nation as itself a primitive space transformed through the imperial invasions of Brutus and the Romans. The texts I read, from Thomas More’s Utopia to William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, respond to the creation of new sovereignties on others’ lands by engaging with these deep, distant memories of England’s own territory. My subjects treat the antiquarian documentation of the past and the colonial “improvement” of the wilderness as allied processes: twin indices of a civilizing development out of primitivism that has defined the nation’s history and that can now define the future course of its new plantations.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Joseph Loewenstein

Committee Members

Steven Zwicker, Abram Van Engen, Jessica Rosenfeld, Alexandre Dube,

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