"My good Lord Piece doth all": Jonsonian comedy and early capitalist subjectivity

Hall, Mark Webster (2012). "My good Lord Piece doth all": Jonsonian comedy and early capitalist subjectivity PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Hall, Mark Webster
Thesis Title "My good Lord Piece doth all": Jonsonian comedy and early capitalist subjectivity
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Alison V. Scott
Peter Holbrook
Total pages 261
Total black and white pages 261
Language eng
Subjects 2005 Literary Studies
Formatted abstract
Relations involving fiduciary credit in the early modern period have recently been the focus of research concerning the development of capitalist subjectivity. Scholars have argued that the discursive negotiation of these credit relations served to bolster that subjectivity in the midst of the otherwise unsettling pressures of emerging capitalist markets. The present research takes the question at the heart of this debate - i.e. whether trust in early capitalism serves to produce an economic subjectivity that is robust or not - and interrogates how it is dramatised in five important Jonsonian comedies: Every Man Out of His Humour, Epicene, The Devil is an Ass, The Staple of News, and A Tale of a Tub. Arguing that these plays usefully refract an economic logic, I submit each to a sustained close reading in order to demonstrate how the microstructures of early capitalist subjectivity are actualised and contested therein. The tropes of performativity that are thematised in the Jonsonian dramatisations resonate, I show, with a contemporary move away from a seigneurial logic of gift-giving and hospitality and toward that increasingly dominated by the commodity form. This commodity logic promotes a subjectivity that can best be characterised in terms of what it does not do: it does not spend at public market, preferring to conserve its strength away from view; neither does this subject really trust - what displaces trust is a sequence of endless deferrals carried out in a market dominated by relations of exchange. The economic subjectivities constituted in these displacements resonate, I demonstrate, with changes effected within agrarian capitalism and emerging credit logics. In attuning itself to these changes, the early capitalist subject fixes capital in postponement both of community and of self. Both performative requirements speak to contradictory elements within a capitalist ontology. My case is that Jonson's plays make visible these contradictions and enable us to see how fraught with tension the emergence of a properly capitalist subjectivity actually is.
Keyword Ben Jonson
Commodity form

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Created: Wed, 19 Sep 2012, 10:27:40 EST by Mr Mark Hall on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service