Sovereignty and Early Modern Literary Representation
The nature of sovereignty and its related concerns were central for political theorists of the early modern period (Renaissance). These questions continued to circulate in succeeding centuries, and returned with particular significance in the late 20th and 21st centuries, especially among continental political philosophers. This seminar will engage with questions surrounding sovereignty in both early modern literary texts as they relate to debates about sovereignty in their own time and/or in the present. Topics might include those focusing on the relationships of sovereign and subjects, sovereign and civil, mora, and/or divine law, sovereign and commonweal/commonwealth, sovereign authority, exile, the friend/enemy distinction, the sovereign decision, the king’s two bodies/political theology, tyranny and responses to the abuse of power, etc. This seminar is both interested in the historical notions and theories of sovereignty within early modern (Renaissance) literature but also interested in thinking through the how that literature reflects and is reflected in our present debates about sovereignty. Finally, the other side of the sovereign is the subject, and the relationship between the subject and the sovereign is a crucial concern for theories of sovereignty. This is not just true in our present period dominated by democratic societies in which the subject is the sovereign. Indeed, for early modern political philosophers’ questions of the subjects’ political significance and limits on a sovereign’s prerogatives were vexing ones that were only growing more urgent throughout a period demarcated most broadly as 1500-1800.
Seminar Organizers: Sandra Logan; Neal Klomp