The Construction of the Other in Early Modern Britain: Attraction, Rejection, Symbiosis

The early modern period in Britain was considered as instrumental in the formation of English identities. It has only recently been discovered that the conflicting influences of aliens and foreigners on this process have been highlighted.

These ‘others’ were initially approached by the Saidian post-colonial analysis. The early modern episteme was read as an anticipation of the imperial mind: the English representing themselves in an certain way to further their (proto-) imperial aspirations. Yet, recent work has demonstrated the weaknesses of this approach, as early modern England, at least until the late 16th century, was very far from an expanding nation. Nabel Matar has convincingly explained how, for example, the relation of the early modern English with the Muslim other cannot be interpreted from the misconception of English colonial aspirations, since the 16th and 17th century Ottomans, Persians or Moroccons were as powerful as the English themselves.

Consequently the texts dealing with these issues must be read from a new perspective, taking into consideration the conflicting (re-) productions of these others, who will simultaneously be absorbed and rejected, attracted and repelled. The essays contained in this volume develop these ideas from a variety of critical perspectives . Although most of the texts analysed are theatrical, other types of texts (such as narratives, historical accounts or even opera) will also be explored. Many of the essays are, to a greater or lesser extent, informed by cultural materialist and cultural semiotic (i.e. Lotmanian) criticism, although some other approaches are also taken into consideration.


Meadhbh O´Halloran in: Spenser Review, 44.2.38 (2014) online, URL:

Theresa Summer in: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 67.4 (2014), 1373ff

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