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Title: The Secret History of a “Secret War”: John Barclay, His Satyricon, and the Politicization of Literary Scholarship in Early Modern Europe, 1582-1621
Authors: Growhoski, Matthew Thomas
Advisors: Grafton, Anthony
Peter, Lake
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Barclay
John (1582-1621)
History of Britain
History of literature
History of political thought
History of religion
Menippean satire
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation offers a historicist reading of the Menippean satire Satyricon (1605) by the Scottish-Lorrainian poet John Barclay (1582-1621). Guided by its highly contingent and frequently strange view of the world, I aim to cast new light on a number of canonical questions from the fields of political, literary, religious, and intellectual history. My primary intervention is the construction of an analytical framework that transcends the anachronistic disciplinary and national boundaries that have contributed to Barclay’s present-day obscurity, and hindered a full understanding of a deceptively peaceful period in European history. Part I embeds Barclay in the long-term legacy of the sixteenth-century Wars of Religion, emphasizing the formative influence of his father William Barclay (1546-1608). A Scots-Catholic exile and humanist-trained jurist, he followed Jean Bodin (1530-1596) in advocating absolute royal supremacy as the best guarantee of civil peace. The Satyricon was innovative in delivering a proof of Bodin’s theories in the amusing and popularly accessible Menippean form. Reconstructing its history, I show the genre to be an invention of the Renaissance: inspired by Horace, modelled by Erasmus, and perfected in the heat of inter-confessional conflict—alongside humanistic jurisprudence and political absolutism—into a tool for the destruction of reputations, especially heretics’. Parts II and III reconstruct John’s decade-long residence in England, beginning with his simultaneous entry into royal service and his forgotten conversion to Protestantism in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot (1605). I discover his vital and increasingly secretive role in the anti-Roman pamphlet war known as the Oath of Allegiance Controversy (1606-1615) as translator, pamphleteer, and spy. Described for the first time is Barclay’s central role in the 1609 embassy that delivered King James’s Apologie for the Oath to the crowned heads of Europe. I conclude by reevaluating Barclay’s reconversion and defection to Rome in late-1615, and the composition of his Menippean-inflected, absolutist masterpiece Argenis (1621). Linking both to his displeasure with King James’s growing reliance on “Puritan” counselors post-1614, I tie Argenis’s reputation as the archetype of the Civil War era’s royalist romances to Barclay’s contemporary, international reputation as an apologist for Stuart absolutism in its infancy.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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