Reorienting the Diamond in Early Modern England Open Access

A simple question animates this project: What did people living in early modern England think about diamonds? Put differently, what was a diamond for the English during the Tudor and Stuart reigns? This dissertation follows the travels and travails of the diamond through a variety of generically distinct works from the poetry of Elizabeth I and the historiography of John Foxe to the narratives of travelers and merchants like John Mandeville, Ralph Fitch, and William Methwold to the plays of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Through these texts, we learn that that while in some respects the diamond extends a shared point of contact between our moment and that of England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in others, the diamond reflects an early modern orientation toward its contours radically distinct from but instructive to our engagement with the stone. An interrogation into diamonds in early modern England matters because the matter of the diamond nuances our understanding of the way that the stone inflected culture, economics, politics, and religion broadly, and theories of affect, materiality, and phenomenology specifically. In terms of historical and literary scholarship, this proves important work. However, the early modern diamond also refracts our own purchase on and of a crystalline structure that has underwritten amputations, massacre and war in countries like Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe; child labor in parts of India; and the heteronormative love of the modern marriage market, particularly in the United States. Thus, a reconsideration of our (im)material engagement with the stone is of no little ethical urgency.

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