Fictions of Embassy

Fictions of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe

Timothy Hampton
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 250
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7zf1s
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  • Book Info
    Fictions of Embassy
    Book Description:

    Historians of early modern Europe have long stressed how new practices of diplomacy that emerged during the period transformed European politics. Fictions of Embassy is the first book to examine the cultural implications of the rise of modern diplomacy. Ranging across two and a half centuries and half a dozen languages, Timothy Hampton opens a new perspective on the intersection of literature and politics at the dawn of modernity.

    Hampton argues that literary texts-tragedies, epics, essays-use scenes of diplomatic negotiation to explore the relationship between politics and aesthetics, between the world of political rhetoric and the dynamics of literary form. The diplomatic encounter is a scene of cultural exchange and linguistic negotiation. Literary depictions of diplomacy offer occasions for reflection on the definition of genre, on the power of representation, on the limits of rhetoric, on the nature of fiction making itself. Conversely, discussions of diplomacy by jurists, political philosophers, and ambassadors deploy the tools of literary tradition to articulate new theories of political action.

    Hampton addresses these topics through a discussion of the major diplomatic writers between 1450 and 1700-Machiavelli, Grotius, Gentili, Guicciardini-and through detailed readings of literary works that address the same topics-works by Shakespeare, More, Rabelais, Montaigne, Tasso, Corneille, Racine, and Camoens. He demonstrates that the issues raised by diplomatic theorists helped shape the emergence of new literary forms, and that literature provides a lens through which we can learn to read the languages of diplomacy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5871-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction. Angels and Pimps: Toward a Diplomatic Poetics
    (pp. 1-13)

    This is a book about politics and culture in early modern Europe. My focus is the relationship between the rise of modern secular literary culture and a new type of political practice. The political practice is diplomacy. Of course, diplomatic activity long predates the European Renaissance. However, during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries in Europe diplomacy underwent a series of unprecedented transformations, both practical and theoretical, which made it a powerfully important element in statecraft. It became an important political tool that helped structure the shift from late feudalism to the new “states system” characteristic of European modernity. This...

  5. 1 Words and Deeds: Diplomacy and Humanist Fiction
    (pp. 14-44)

    In 1479, following the Pazzi conspiracy to assassinate him, Lorenzo de’ Medici, later known as the Magnificent (“Il Magnifico”), consulted with his advisers and concluded that the only hope for political stability in Florence lay in an alliance with one of his adversaries. Chief among these were Pope Sixtus IV and Ferdinand, king of Naples, against both of whom Lorenzo had just fought an unsuccessful war. At that time Florence was nominally a republic, over which Lorenzo exercised authority as a strong man. Judging the Pope an unreliable ally and noting that the lives of popes are often short, Lorenzo...

  6. 2 The Useful and the Honorable: The Ethics of Mediation in the Late Renaissance
    (pp. 45-72)

    The emergence of new forms of court culture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries brought with it a revaluation of the traditional ethics of heroism and virtue. The role of traditional military valor as the mark of aristocratic virtue began to be questioned, even as the humanist return to classical moral philosophy injected an ethical dimension into discourses about public life and political action. The capacity to inflict violence on one’s enemies began to give way to more sophisticated combinations of courage, talent, and linguistic mastery as the index of accomplishment. The conventional image of the violent engagement with adversaries...

  7. 3 Epic and the Law of Nations: Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered
    (pp. 73-96)

    Diplomatic activity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries found its legal framework within the so-called ius gentium, or “law of nations.” This was a traditional collection of conventions that had developed out of Roman imperial policies and that gave a legal framework, of sorts, to relations between national groups. Medieval and Renaissance European writers frequently linked the internationalism of the law of nations to notions of a Christian commonwealth, or of the res publica Christiana, whose well-being was seen to take precedence over other political matters, including “national security.” As Maurice Keens-Soper writes, “No Renaissance ruler believed either that his...

  8. 4 From Cortez to Camões: Identity and Authority in the Discourse of Discovery
    (pp. 97-114)

    Literary depictions of diplomacy stress the potential for misunderstanding or misapprehension in the diplomatic encounter. More’s Anemolians misconstrue the customs of the Utopians. Tasso’s envoys, like Virgil’s before them, appear in unfamiliar dress, the bearers of superficial marks of otherness that somehow must be overcome. Yet how can you know an ambassador when you see one? And how can you distinguish a sanctioned envoy from an impostor or a vagabond who has simply wandered into your ambit? As diplomatic culture expanded in the second half of the sixteenth century, and as European states multiplied their journeys outside of Europe, the...

  9. 5 Big States and Small States: Sovereignty, Diplomatic Recognition, and the Theater of Pierre Corneille
    (pp. 115-137)

    In 1591, on the death of the French King Henri III, two missions were immediately sent to Rome. One was dispatched by the backers of the Protestant prince of Navarre, the heir to the throne, later to be crowned Henry IV. The other came from the members of the Holy League, the ultra-Catholic faction in France headed by the Guise family. Both embassies hoped to be recognized by the Vatican as a way of strengthening their faction’s claim to the French throne. Neither was received. This historical detail is mentioned by Abraham van Wicquefort in his massive late seventeenth-century treatise...

  10. 6 Hamlet’s Diplomacy: State-Building, Dispatch, and Revenge
    (pp. 138-162)

    Much of the discourse around the development of diplomatic culture in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries stressed the role of the ambassador as an agent of international concord, as a promoter of peace among nations and the establishment of a unified res publica christiana. By virtue of his proximity to his prince, his noble origins, and his moral excellence, the ideal ambassador was enjoined, as Tasso put it, to bring together princes in friendship.¹ However the “international” dimension of diplomacy should not obscure the extent to which the ambassador was a key figure in the dramas of state-building and...

  11. 7 The Tragedy of Delegation: Diplomatic Action and Tragic Form in Racine’s Andromaque
    (pp. 163-188)

    In the last decades of the sixteenth century and early years of the seventeenth century an important shift began to take place in the role of diplomacy in European political life. For it was during these years that diplomacy began to be treated as an integral part of statecraft, both at the level of theory and the level of practice. For sixteenth century political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Seyssel, and Erasmus diplomatic negotiation was recognized as important. But it did not form a central element in political theory, in reflection on the well being of the res publica—not...

  12. Conclusion. In the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs
    (pp. 189-196)

    Over the course of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, European political life was marked by the rapid development of diplomatic theory and practice. The increasing importance of diplomacy in the conduct of political affairs, both foreign and domestic, was an innovation that built on and transformed earlier traditions of political communication and negotiation. The new diplomatic practice produced a massive literature, ranging from correspondences that were printed and circulated, to the foundational treatises of international law.

    But the development of diplomacy also had a cultural influence. It gave rise to an entire repertoire of scenes, characters, and topics that...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-216)
  14. References
    (pp. 217-228)
  15. Index
    (pp. 229-236)