Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England

Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England

Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England

Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England

Synopsis

This collection of essays, by theorists and scholars representing a wide range of critical orientations, focuses not only on land enclosure as a historical fact, but also on the symbolic containment of sexuality in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature.

Excerpt

The essays in this volume represent two ways in which critics of early modern English culture currently employ the discourse of enclosure, closure, and containment in their work on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We have included essays on the enclosure and consolidation of land, which constituted an important stage in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and on the redefinition and enclosure of sexuality and the body within the symbolic order which accompanied this process. The first, perhaps more familiar type of enclosure has lent itself to Marxist and New Historicist approaches; feminists and other critics concerned with gender and sexuality have addressed the second. By reevaluating enclosure as an object of both feminist and historicist analysis, we hope to add a new dimension to the ongoing critique of early modern symbolic practices.

We acknowledge at the outset the uneven development within Renaissance studies which makes for differences in the way our contributors position themselves within the topic. This book is an intervention in Renaissance studies, in where it has been and where it seems to be going. Owing in part to the persuasiveness of the New Historicism, the study of Renaissance culture has secured an ascendancy within literary studies in general at a time when political criticism has achieved a simsimilar hegemony within literary theory. Renaissance studies and political criticism of one sort or another often intersect; feminist analysis of the construction of gender in early modern times, New Historicist sampling of power relations in court society, and cultural materialist genealogies of class and nationality all come to mind.

Much of the recent work on property and the body in early modern culture is concerned to relate gender and class, or, in the familiar phraseology of current criticism, to historicize gender and to engender . . .

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