National Boundaries in Question: Shakespeare and the Theoretical Limit of the Nation

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the methodological and epistemological limits posed by the national framework when studying texts from the Renaissance, especially from the English Renaissance. Starting from the paradoxical observation that some of Shakespeare’s texts, in particular Henry V, tend to be interpreted as conveying national sentiments, even though modern conceptions of the nation, according to the theoretical consensus, only appeared in the late eighteenth century, this article both interrogates the temporal limit of the nation and the issues of when national ideas appeared and, more largely, the relevance of the national framework itself in the context of medieval and early modern studies. This study offers, first, an overview and brief review of the two main critical trends surrounding these issues, which apprehends the national framework either as an unpassable limit which, if used in the wrong setting, might prevent a proper understanding of the pre-modern past by imposing an anachronical reading, or, conversely, as a tool which may help to make sense of past allegiances and senses of cultural belonging. It then attempts to go beyond the apparent dichotomy of these two approaches, and argues for the development of a theoretical model of the nation based on cognitive semantic approaches, which accounts for the inherent plurality, dynamism, and temporal instability of national allegiances and sentiments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-125
Number of pages19
JournalInterférences littéraires
Volume28
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Nationalism
  • Patriotism
  • Shakespeare
  • Early modern English drama

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