This is a collection of interdisciplinary essays exploring a few of the ways in which their own encounters fashion early modern European identities with borders. As Betteridge’s editorial preamble ‘Borders’ title, Writing and Travel’ suggests, this book takes a view that is diverse of inland and overseas journeying: ‘In early modern Europe’ he observes,’ crossing a boundary could take several forms. It might mean taking a trip through London’s sewage system, visiting a Links London hospital or sailing to the Americas’. However, these notions that were multifarious are marshalled into a lucid project.
Montaigne’s essay ‘examines and interrogates the boundary between civilized and barbarian’. By contrast, the fictional Utopia,’ “Nowhere”… celebrates the borderless world of European humanism while at exactly the exact same time in its details reflecting the humanist desire for borders, for control and order’. These sixteenth-century texts provide examples of the complex approach of this period to the topic whilst allowing the editor to set up the book principles. Betteridge sees two of the essays of the collection. Neil Whitehead’s ‘Sacred Cannibals and Golden Kings: Travelling the Borders of the New World with Hans Staden and Walter Ralegh’ and Maria R. Boes’s ‘Unwanted Travellers: The Tightening of City Borders in Early Modern Germany’ take up and develop the foregoing discussion of Montaigne and More in important ways. In the words of the editor, Whitehead’s piece ‘is the theoretical center of the collection’. In his analysis of Ralegh’s Discoverie of Guiana (1596) and Staden’s Warhaftige Historia (1557), Whitehead adroitly discusses the manner in which both travelers ‘struck native cultural and political borders which needed to be negotiated and couldn’t be simply overridden’. The ‘lure of gold at the borders of possessions’, driven travelers to cross borders ‘for the politics of state’ such as Ralegh. The figure of seeming alterity which lurked on the margins of these opulent sites the cannibal is Links Of London Charms inspected in Staden’s account of his capture by (and eventual escape from) the Tupinamba. With an introduction written by the Johannes Dryander, Staden’s listing of the Tupi Indians’ rituals foregrounds the carnivalesque that is threatening aspects of Tupian sacrifice which violated ‘cultural norms and social’. A sentence from a footnote in Whitehead’s article comments that ‘Through power’s order, our own bodies are shaped, and defined’. To be sure, the dense, interrelated set of European discourses that inscribe the cannibal (like religion, punishment and dissection) as other are clearly vulnerable in Staden’s text.
Boes’s piece, described by Betteridge as ‘the fundamental chapter’ which ‘shows in great detail the way in which a specific central European city reacted to the humanist reform programme by creating numerous new borders and controls’, explains the means by which borders mark bodies as outcasts. Taking the ‘free royal town of Frankfurt’ as a case study, Boes convincingly shows, for instance, how ‘The town wall… Once the sign of urban medieval liberties, increasingly served as a border-enhancing discriminatory weapon’, placing ‘insiders against outsiders’: Jews, Gypsies, the poor and unmarried girls.
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