Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



For several hundred years, the scholarly discussion of temperance was dominated by the legacy of classical models. This dissertation, titled A Poetics of Temperance: Gender, Genre, and Meaning-Making in Early Modern England, develops said discussion in a new way by forging a language about ethics and aesthetics into a poetics of temperance. The term poiesis derives from Greek and signifies “to make, create, produce” (OED). Accordingly, Aristotle uses the Greek poietes, “from which our word ‘poet’ derives,” to denote a “maker” (Murray xxxii). In brief, this project understands the role of women in emergent genres as intrinsic to the act of temperate meaning-making. A Poetics of Temperance triangulates temperance, gender, and genre so as to bring together critical scholarship pertaining to each of these discrete categories and advance the conversation in an unprecedented manner. Studies by leading scholars, such as Stephen Greenblatt, Harry Berger, Barbara Lewalski, and Stephen Orgel, to name a few, have approached these topics and the works under investigation here by establishing correlations between genre and gender, in some cases, or temperance and various colonial projects, in others. None, however, has constellated these terms so as to theorize temperance as a poetics. In several significant ways, this dissertation engages with the early modern reconceptualization of classical temperance, and in so doing, aims to answer or resolve how temperance reconfigures the relationship between gender and genre in order to constitute a poetics that allows us to understand the following: the gendered manner (and its ramifications) in which early modern texts that are ethically prescriptive or suggestive as well as aesthetically inquisitive make meaning; the early modern reinvention of older genres and modes; and, finally, the moral stakes of representation (who we are as people, and what we strive to be). Concentrated on a historical moment when cultural innovation flourished due in part to the rediscovery of classical texts, this project understands writing or cultural production, broadly speaking, as reflections of how we live. It, therefore, offers new insights into how early modern English poets and playwrights conceived of themselves and their potential via representation.



Committee Chair

Barrett, Chris



Available for download on Tuesday, December 09, 2025