Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Kim Solga and Dr. Margaret Jane Kidnie
In this dissertation, I am proposing a new way to explore Anglo-Judeo-Islamic relations in early modern drama: to focus on the way food, drink, and the humoral body materializes on stage as “conversion panic,” which is dramatized in a range of scenarios from overt xenophobia to more nuanced scenes of acceptance and tolerance. Because the early modern English believed that diet – eating with religious others and/or eating foods from other nations – could alter their humoral makeup to the extent that their internal, physiological bodies underwent a religious conversion, they were constantly and consciously aware of the looming possibility of conversion. The hydraulic premise of humoral physiology thus extended, I contend, to religious identity: just as humors were fluid, so too was religious identity.
Food, which is at once a central “non-natural” for the humoral body and an essentially theatrical element, provides an important point of convergence for investigating religious difference in early modern drama. To examine food’s role in the Anglo-Judeo-Islamic equation is to better understand how the early modern English simultaneously managed their fears, maintained their cultural and religious identities, and developed or nurtured economic and political ties with the other. To offer a more comprehensive picture of English interactions with religious others, I study early modern English histories, travel narratives, medical tracts, sermons, and other pamphlets, in addition to the English representation of religious others on stage. The plays I discuss span approximately forty-seven years, starting with Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London (1584) and extending to the late Jacobean sequel to The Fair Maid of the West (c. 1631) by Thomas Heywood.
I conclude that examining interfaith relationships from the perspective of foodways widens the possibility that the early modern English did not always look to the Turk, Jew, or Catholic in contempt. Rather, studying these interfaith encounters in tandem with humoral theory and culinary practices establishes the fact that the early modern English were conscious of their sameness with others, and responded to this awareness with attitudes ranging from outright resistance to compassionate acceptance.
Ebrahim, Fatima F., "Turning to Food: Religious Contact and Conversion in Early Modern Drama" (2015). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 2796.