The Theater as Infection

Ellen Mackay

in Persecution, Plague, and Fire

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780226500195
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226500218 | DOI:
The Theater as Infection

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This chapter aims to show two things: first, and briefly, that the plague in early modern England has a lot in common with the performative, epistemologically anarchic disease that Artaud describes, and, second, that its close relation to Catholicism's toxic past confounds the pre- and post of post-Reformation England. The chapter begins, therefore, by culling some examples of the plague's conceptual volatility, first among them John Donne's opening Meditation on the devastation “Sicknes” inflicts upon the order of things. By mocking the clean break of modern science, Artaud draws a picture of the plague that is richly suggestive of the post-Catholic moment to which this chapter attends.

Keywords: plague; early modern England; Artaud; John Donne; Reformation; modern science; post-Catholic moment

Chapter.  10523 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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