Rachel Reid

Rachel ReidRReid


‘Past, present, and hereafter to be written’: The Polytemporal Identities of John Dee (submitted 2016).

This thesis re-assesses what we know of John Dee within a context of what I have termed ‘polytemporality’. This approach questions Dee’s relationship to periodising conventions and to the historiographical recuperation of identity following perceived temporal ruptures (such as the Reformation). It challenges the standard notion of Dee as the archetypal ‘Renaissance conjurer’ by bringing to the forefront Dee’s own assessment of the ‘past, present and hereafter’ of his reputation. It argues that Dee’s multiple identities are instead reflective of a polytemporal reflexivity that is heightened by a conflict between his intellectual hubris and personal insecurity. Dee emerges as a figure poised uncomfortably in and outside of his society’s conceptions of temporality, influenced by the past and self-consciously aware of the future. The temporal fracturing prompted by the Reformation and the ensuing struggle to re-establish a British historiography of continuity and succession is reflected in the instability and impermanence of Dee’s own changing identities. Dee’s concern for his posthumous reputation juxtaposes the self-assuredness of his intellectual self-image, providing glimpses of the man behind the magus. In this thesis Dee is ‘revisited, repeated […] reinterpreted, and reshuffled’ (Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 75), and emerges as a man before, between, and behind his times: a polytemporal Dee.

Supervisors: Dr. Stephen Kelly (English) and Prof. Crawford Gribben (History).

Conference papers:

‘The Perception of Self in John Dee’s Dreams’. Sixteenth Century Society Conference (Bruges, 2016)

‘The Medieval Inheritances of an Early Modern Magus’. International Medieval Congress (Leeds University, 2016)

‘”Poor almost Prospero”: Some Afterlives of John Dee’. Common Ground (QUB, 2016)

‘Conjurer, Collector, Celebrity? The Afterlives of John Dee’. Borderlines XX (Trinity College Dublin, 2016)

‘The Man Behind the Magus: Shaping John Dee’s Selves’. Medieval Cultures seminar (QUB, 2016).

‘Curating John Dee’. Common Ground (QUB, 2015)

‘In defence of the “old dirty past”? John Dee’s library as monument to history’. International Congress on Medieval Studies, K’zoo. (Western Michigan Uni, 2015)

‘Curating the Curator? The materiality of John Dee’s Mortlake, 1583 and 2015’. Borderlines XIX (QUB, 2015)

‘Memory’s Library: John Dee’s Mortlake as an “Early Modern” institute?’ Common Ground (QUB, 2014)

‘“Farre-fetched and deare bought Antiquities”: The influence of the Reformation on Early Modern libraries’. Borderlines XVIII (UCC, 2014)

‘“Medieval Magus?”: Aspects of the Reputation of John Dee’. Borderlines XVII (TCD, 2013)

‘Sites of Contestation: “Mede and Muche Thank” in the context of Middle English Debate Poetry’. Borderlines XVI (QUB, 2012).


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