Spectral Materiality: Theoretical Approaches to Materialism in Early Modern England
Abstract: By attending to early modern theorizations of the material, this dissertation exposes the hauntedness of the material, the ways in which materiality, when held up as a concept and as concretion, already figures its own collapse. Each chapter in this project might be seen as a case study that explains how "the material" operates as a figure for positivization that it always refuses. "Sexing ... read moreMaterials" looks to early modern science and Preciado's trans theory to unsettle a politics founded on the sexually dimorphic body by exposing the failures of bodies to confirm genital sexual dimorphism as a mode of categorization. "Material Remains" uses Donne's and Derrida's ruminations on the disintegrating body to reveal how the body as a material entity is always compacting and recompacting, thereby rejecting the presumed overlap between materiality and presence. "Spectral Materiality" sees Macbeth and Lacan as proposing a theory of materiality always aware of the phantasmatic desires that occupy the very construction of the material. As a result, Spectral Materiality proposes a methodological approach to early modern studies that focuses on theoretical accounts of materiality in order to spotlight intersections between early modern and contemporary texts. Materialist criticism tends to presume that it knows in advance what "the material" is and does, and how to recognize it. Early modern criticism often invokes "materialism" without a real concern for how the material itself, as a deployed concept and sign, gets reinforced as a static, stable, knowable entity beyond interrogation. I return to early modern discourses to attend to their theorization of the material as a sign whose utility only exists insofar as we recognize its fundamental incoherence. By reading scientific, religious, and literary accounts of materiality, this dissertation sees in early modern discourses a theorization of materiality that engages with deconstruction and psychoanalysis through its insistence that the divide the between material and immaterial, presence and absence, object and concept can never be firmly drawn.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisors: Lee Edelman, and Kevin Dunn.
Committee: Lisa Lowe, and Carla Freccero.
Keywords: English literature, and Literature.read less