How kingdoms were forged: King Arthur, Queen Elizabeth, and the assimilation of self and other in the New Ancient World
Vander Velde, Wendy Marcella
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ABSTRACT Medieval xenophobia fostered attitudes that viewed anything foreign or distasteful as monstrous. Accordingly, insular inhabitants of the Middle Ages were constantly striving to distinguish Self from Other. My dissertation argues that sixteenth-century England began to reverse this trend: it began to reconcile difference, not by distinguishing Self from Other, but by blurring those distinctions. Visions of ancient Self and contemporary Other began to fuse as proponents of Imperial Britain sought to assimilate foreign monsters that were once considered barbaric, inferior, or inhuman. This method of assimilation is especially apparent during the Elizabethan Age of conquest in the New World. England's prophetic destiny was inextricably tied to its epic history, its Trojan ancestry, and its most glorified rulers, Brutus and his distant successor, King Arthur. Thus, reestablishing and rewriting Britain's legendary past became an exercise in securing its future. I maintain that John Dee (c. 1527-1608/9) and Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599) strategically fused ancient Britain and the New World via the figures of King Arthur and his alleged descendant, Queen Elizabeth. Portions of Dee's Brytanici Imperii Limites are explored to illustrate this connection, as are some of his arcane mystical pursuits. I further examine sections of Spenser's Faerie Queene in relation to Queen Elizabeth and King Arthur, and interpret Arthur in Faery lond as a metaphor for England in the New World. My introduction establishes the key features of the Galfridian tradition and its significance to the Tudor dynasty. It further discusses medieval perceptions of the monstrous that influenced the early-modern era. Subsequent chapters argue that England's assimilation of Other extended to pagan deities and giants, Native Americans, ancient Israelites, and (in Elizabeth's case) to the feminine Other. My final chapter demonstrates how Queen Elizabeth, via her affiliation with King Arthur, became a temporal bridge uniting England's epic past with its future glory.