Date of Degree
Ethnic Studies | Literature in English, British Isles
Early modern, race, gypsies, Romani
Since the arrival of Romani people in England in the 16th century, the figure of the Gypsy has been a staple of English literature and culture. My dissertation, Outlandish People: Gypsies, Race, and Fantasies of National Identity in Early Modern England, argues that representations of Gypsies, from Shakespeare’s Othello and Antony and Cleopatra to Ben Jonson’s The Gypsies Metamorphosed, served as a foil for English writers to create a distinctly white early modern English subject. By investigating the racialization of the Gypsy, this project considers technologies of race that lie within the parameters of England itself. Though the English proposed, not without debate, that Gypsies geographically originated in Egypt, much of the concern around Gypsies revolved around the sense that they had no putative home outside of England like other racial groups, but originated within England itself. Early modern Gypsies, thus, became the locus for conversations about English subjecthood and nationality, as well as the possibility and threat of racial conversion. Outlandish People takes the intersectional, interdisciplinary approach demanded of early modern race studies. The complexity of race making means that my dissertation approaches this subject using multiple theoretical tools, including critical race theory, queer theory, affect theory, and biopolitics, to properly analyze all facets of the racialization of this group. Not only a comprehensive analysis of figurations of Gypsies in early modern English literature and culture, my project, unlike most work in this area, attempts to create an accurate picture of the people behind these representations by illuminating the historical and biographical narratives of Romani people in early modern England. Thus, the project necessarily theorizes the nature of archival recovery and its relationship to race studies.
Wagner, Sydnee, "Outlandish People: Gypsies, Race, and Fantasies of National Identity in Early Modern England" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.