Known and Imagined Communities in the Renaissance


Saturday, July 16, 2011.  at the University of Stirling


I’th’ commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things. For no kind of traffic
Would I admit, no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women too – but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty –
(The Tempest, 2.1.147-157)

The debate about different kinds of society, both real and fictional, was intense and wide-ranging during the 16th century and into the 17th century. In addition to the two basic types of social formation that actually existed - absolute monarchy and republic - there were, from Sir Thomas More’s Utopia onwards, accounts of ‘fictional’ communities of the kind envisaged by Shakespeare’s Gonzalo in The Tempest. This symposium aims to address the various kinds of representation of actually existing communities, covering descriptions in texts such as Sir Thomas Smith’s De Republica Anglorum, Jean Bodin’s Six Books of the Commonwealth, or Fulk Greville’s A Treatise on Monarchy, and representations in Shakespeare’s Roman plays, and those of Jonson, and other early 17thcentury contemporaries, of the various stages and kinds of political formation from tyranny to empire; or in Shakespeare’s two Venetian plays, The Merchant of Venice and Othello, and Jonson’s Volpone, of republicanism. Questions such as: what binds a community together; how are its values formulated and transmitted; to what extent are these ties dependent upon ‘language’ and upon an ‘imagined’ collectivity of the kind proposed by commentators such as Benedict Anderson, will form part of the discussion. But the symposium will also consider ‘imagined’ communities in the fully fictional sense of the term and as exemplified in texts such as More’s Utopia but extended to early 17th century writers of utopian fiction. For the purposes of the symposium the terminus ad quem will be the writings of Milton and Thomas Hobbes.

Papers are invited for a one-day symposium on ‘Known and Imagined Communities in the Renaissance’, and proposals should be submitted to the following address by Monday 30 May, 2011; papers should be no longer than 15 mins. duration (10pp. double-spaced typed A4):

Professor J. Drakakis
Department of English Studies
University of Stirling
Stirling FK9 4LA
Scotland Email:

Should contributors so wish, then their papers will appear on the SINRS website after the symposium.

There will be a fee of £35 for the day, which will cover coffee, tea, and a buffet lunch. This symposium is run in conjunction with The British Shakespeare Association, and members of the BSA are entitled to a £5 discount on production of membership number. BSA membership forms will be available on the day for anyone who wishes to join. There may be a small number of travel bursaries available to BSA members.

Cheques for the symposium to be made payable to English Studies, University of Stirling. A symposium registration form is attached. Delegates who wish to pay on the day can do so, but please send in your registration form well beforehand so that we can plan for meals.

The registration list will close when the number has reached 50 participants, and registration will be done on a first-come-first-served basis. Please complete the following slip and return it by Monday 6 June to:

SINRS Symposium
Department of English Studies,
University of Stirling,
Stirling FK9 4 LA,