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Graduate Spring 2019: Mckenzie Eggers

Objects of Affection: Intimate Exchanges in Early Modern Literature

Department of English

Objects of Affection: Intimate Exchanges in Early Modern Literature

This project explores the roles objects played in literary scripts of intimacy created, performed, and disseminated in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. More specifically, it investigates representations of intimacies in tension to track the ways various non-human entities (rings, caskets, manuscripts, armor, trees) create, make impossible, or otherwise shape the development and resolution of these tensions. In reevaluating our understandings of early modern intimacy, my analysis adds to the relatively sparse work on intimacy in the field of Renaissance literary criticism.  Whereas scholarship on the family, courtship, marriage, sexuality, and friendship abounds, less has been done to theorize early modern intimacy itself. Moreover, by thoroughly considering the integral role objects play in intimate relationships, my study theorizes Renaissance intimacy as linked not only to interior thoughts and desires (as it typically has been) but to materials that exist in the external world. Overall, “Objects of Affection” offers a more comprehensive picture of Renaissance England’s intimate landscape than currently exists and suggests another lens—that of materiality—through which to (re)consider intimacy in the past and today.