Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Joyce G. MacDonald


Death, Discipline, and the Dead: Biopolitical Rhetoric in Early Modern English Texts locates allusions to the biopolitical culture of Early Modern England within popular English texts. Through my examination of the period’s fascination with death—public executions, newly-authorized anatomies—and the ways in which death, as well as the treatment of the dead, was authorized by and supported the ideological aims of the state, my research identifies how those themes carry over into the most popular works of the day, reviewing instances of both verbal and nonverbal rhetoric across genres to find allusions to biopower — or, state control of the biological.

I argue that biopower extends to the dead, even in their silence, and is evidenced in early modern literature, and that biopolitical rhetoric — such as allusions to gallows, gallows rhetoric, and anatomical discourse — is detectable across genres of entertainment, including sermons, prose fiction, plays, and anatomy publications. This project reads works by John Donne, Thomas Nashe, William Shakespeare, and early modern anatomists to reveal how these authors, like me, are interested in the death culture of early modern England and how that culture contributes to their concepts of English nationalism, the female body, citizenship, religion, absolute submission, and discipline.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)