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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32932

Title: Domestic Dialogue: The Language and Politics of Adoption in the Age of Shakespeare
Authors: Ellerbeck, Erin Lee
Advisor: Magnusson, Lynne
Department: English
Keywords: English Renaissance Drama
Issue Date: 5-Sep-2012
Abstract: This dissertation examines the representation of adoption in early modern English drama in order to analyze the language of social and familial relations in early modern culture. I propose that although these plays often ultimately support the traditional idea of a birth family, adoption challenges conventional notions of the family by making artificial, non-consanguine relations appear natural, thereby exposing the family unit as a social construction. I suggest further that adopted characters complicate notions of biological inheritance through their negotiations of language, place, and power. My dissertation thus explores the connections between historical language use and social status in early modern England; it couples early modern rhetorical theories and treatises with modern linguistic theory, drawing upon recent sociolinguistic scholarship. The result is to show that understanding how language demarcates social position is essential to illuminating the cultural intricacies of the plays of the period. In Chapters 1 and 2, I investigate the social and economic repercussions of adoption. Chapter 1 discusses the previously overlooked cultural importance of horticultural metaphors of adoption in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and All’s Well That Ends Well. In this chapter, I explore the ways in which early modern culture explained adoption by depicting it in a particular kind of figurative language. Chapter 2 focuses on the economic consequences of, and motivations for, adoption in Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. In my final two chapters, I scrutinize the relations between the early modern family and linguistic practice. Chapter 3 explores the connections between genetics, physical likeness, and language in Lyly’s Mother Bombie and Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Finally, in Chapter 4 I investigate familial relation as a source of linguistic and social power. Middleton’s Women Beware Women, I argue, suggests that kinship exists within language and grants particular speakers linguistic and social authority.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32932
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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