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Shakespeare and Political Theology

Turning to the potent idea of political theology to recover the strange mix of political and religious thinking during the Renaissance, this bracing study reveals in the works of Shakespeare and his sources the figure of the citizen-saint, who represents at once divine messenger and civil servant, both norm and exception. Embodied by such diverse personages as Antigone, Paul, Barabbas, Shylock, Othello, Caliban, Isabella, and Samson, the citizen-saint is a sacrificial figure: a model of moral and aesthetic extremity who inspires new regimes of citizenship with his or her death and martyrdom.

Among the many questions Julia Reinhard Lupton attempts to answer under the rubric of the citizen-saint are: how did states of emergency, acts of sovereign exception, and Messianic anticipations lead to new forms of religious and political law? What styles of universality were implied by the abject state of the pure creature, at sea in a creation abandoned by its creator? And how did circumcision operate as both a marker of ethnicity and a means of conversion and civic naturalization?

Written with clarity and grace, Citizen-Saints will be of enormous interest to students of English literature, religion, and early modern culture.

296 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Religion: Religion and Literature


"The general problem that arises from the careful and subtle discussions in Citizen-Saints is both a theoretical one (which has to do in particular with a reformulation of the understanding of ’cultural’ difference in terms of the transformations and limits of universalities) and an ethical one, which concerns the emancipatory role of the ’exception’ in the recognition of equality, or equal dignity of humans, and whose political implications can certainly not be overestimated in the period of a renewed ’clash of civilizations.’"

Étienne Balibar, author of Politics and the Other Scene

"Citizen-Saints is a book of the highest intellectual caliber. Julia Lupton writes on a compelling and timely topic, stretching across Jewish and Christian traditions, the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, theology generally, St. Paul in particular, social and political theory, and history from antiquity to the Enlightenment. Effectively, she investigates the figure of the ’citizen-saint’ in the literature of citizenship from the Book of Genesis to the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Milton. Her project is at once beautifully focused and admirably capacious. Lupton is such an elegant and original stylist that her book is not merely learned but fun. Carefully researched and argued, Citizen-Saints makes an original contribution to Renaissance studies and to intellectual history more broadly."

Patrick Cheney, author of Shakespeare, National Poet-Playwright

"Julia Reinhard Lupton’s remarkable book seeks a better name for that inescapable thing, the Shakespearean self. The idea of the ’citizen-saint’ becomes in her hands a powerful conceptual tool to describe the uncanny centaur-like mode of being that the poet confers on his creatures, their extravagant ordinariness.  She shows us how Shakespearean characters emerge at the vexed crossing points of the religious and the political, the symbolic and the material. Argued with great eloquence and rigor, acutely sensitive to the pulse of tradition, it is a book that explores protean survivals, dangerous alliances, and eerie emergences, where Othello is haunted by Saint Paul and Antigone is a cousin of Caliban.  Lupton’s moving, unpredictable readings of Shakespearean plays, as well as of texts by Sophocles, Paul, Marlowe, and Milton, aim at the light these authors shed on our ongoing life, or lives, in time."

Kenneth Gross, author of Shakespeare's Noise

 "Lupton’s book wrestles seriously and intelligently with complex issues and brings a sophisticated theoretical perspective to bear on a crucial fault line in western culture."

Mary Thomas Crane | Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900

"Citizen-Saints is significant not only as a contribution to Shakespearean studies, but also as a reflection upon the nature of citizenship and the relation between religion and politics in our time."

John S. Mebane | Renaissance Quarterly

"It is the rare book indeed that offers its reader at least one keen insight in each chapter. Citizen-Saints is just such a book. Wide-ranging and insightful, it draws on theology, religious studies. psychology, social history, political theory, philosophy, and literature."

Andrew R. Murphy | Journal of Religion

Table of Contents

A Note on Texts
1. Citizen Paul
2. Deformations of Fellowship in Marlowe’s Jew of Malta
3. Merchants of Venice, Circles of Citizenship
4. Othello Circumcised
5. Antigone in Vienna
6. Creature Caliban
7. Samson Dagonistes
Epilogue: The Literature of Citizenship: A Humanifesto


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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