Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The effeminacy of Asia

Spent the morning investigating Daniel's anxiety that the New World would prove to England as "Asia to Rome."  Daniel actually fairly early in announcing such an idea, although I've encountered a few proverbial indications as in Nicholas Ling's Wit's Commonwealth, where he says "Excesse came from Asia to Rome, ambition came from Rome to all the world" (263).  Otherwise, the association of dangerous luxury with Asia has an interesting linguistic history, as this little graph I put together from a survey of Early English Books Online will show:

The gap is worth thinking about.  My tentative theory is that as the Civil War approached, England's anxieties were more focused on internal affairs than with fears about empire, but that these fears emerged and accelerated after the death of Charles I.  Overall, the information here confirms my suspicion that Daniel's epistle is one of the first English works to express what will be a growing concern of imperialism.  If I wanted to include drama, I could certainly use Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, though...

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