Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hooks, Adam G

First Committee Member

Snider, Alvin

Second Committee Member

Greteman, Blaine

Third Committee Member

Stapleton, M L

Fourth Committee Member

Round, Phillip


"God's Spies": Reading, Revelation, and the Poetics of Surveillance in Early Modern England

The recent material turn in humanities scholarship has yielded fascinating and insightful research in roughly the past decade, especially in the fields of book history and the history of reading. Scholars of material culture have researched the concrete particulars of book production, the places books were sold, and the conditions in which they were read. This dissertation focuses on the clandestine aspects of early modern English material culture, with particular emphasis on the secret spaces in which reading occurred. Early modern English monarchs cultivated a culture of surveillance in an effort to eliminate illicit religious texts, which combined with changes to the conditions in which texts were read to encourage more private and secretive reading habits. Ultimately, technological, religious, and political change became epistemological as readers increasingly applied a hermeneutics of surveillance to the texts they approached, reading for hidden meaning and for total interpretive control of a text. Writers of imaginative fiction staged scenes of what I call textual surveillance in their works, transforming the hermeneutics of surveillance into a poetics of surveillance that scrutinized the validity of this interpretive strategy and explored how these material, religious, and political changes warped the way readers interpreted, thought, and perceived reality.


Early modern English literature and culture, Hermeneutics, History of reading, History of the book, Shakespeare, Surveillance


vi, 354 pages


Includes bibliographical references.


Copyright © 2015 Benjamin Charles Miele

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020