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The Culture of Dis/simulation in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe

Citation: Gordian, Michael (2015) The Culture of Dis/simulation in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

The dissertation examines early modern perceptions of the twin notions of simulation and dissimulation - which I refer to jointly as 'dis/simulation' - in various literary, social and semantic contexts and from a pan-European perspective. I look at how this thorny and controversial moral issue was addressed and discussed in a wide range of genres and texts and how it was disseminated to a broader readership. The introduction explains my approach to the subject, provides an overview of previous scholarship and includes a short excursus on three literary genres not discussed in detail in the dissertation. In the first chapter, I analyse the varied treatment of dis/simulation in emblem books. In the following chapter I explore the link between the problem of dis/simulation and early modern reform plans for poor relief, focusing on debates in Spain. Chapter 3 looks at texts from other European countries and establishes he connection between, on the one hand, learned and scholarly discussions of the problem of mendicancy, and, on the other, popular literature in which the deceptions and disguises of beggars, rogues and tricksters were a recurrent theme. The next chapter deals with the contemporary perceptions of courtesans and analyses the nexus between love, passions and dis/simulation. The last two chapters show that the problem of feigning and disguise became increasingly important in medical and physiognomical literature. I investigate how both genres addressed a cluster of relevant intellectual contexts relevant, including the possibility of reading the human countenance, the limits of dis/simulation and the morality of employing deception in the interest of healing. I conclude by considering the main contexts, themes and implications of early modern debates on dis/simulation and their gradual decline in the seventeenth century.

Creators: Gordian, Michael and
Subjects: History
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • January 2015 (submitted)


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