Here’s the Queen’s House, designed in 1616 by Inigo Jones for James I’s wife Queen Anne. The perhaps dubious legend has it that it was a gift and apology for swearing at the Queen in public, after she had accidentally shot one of James’ hunting dogs.
I’ll be there, and next door at the National Maritime Museum, for a symposium on The Semiotics of Shipwreck. Should be a great event, with far-traveling scholars from South Africa, Sweden, Canada, and the US, as well as some home-grown types from the UK.
Here’s the opening quotation and first paragraph of the talk I’ll give on Friday afternoon on “God’s Storm: Shipwreck and the Meanings of Ocean”:
My Body is the Hull; the Keele my Back; my Neck the Stem; the Sides are my Ribbes; the Beames my Bones; my flesh the plankes; Gristles and ligaments are the Pintells and knee-timbers; Arteries, veines and sinews the serverall seames of the Ship; my blood is the ballast; my heart the principall hold; my stomack the Cooke-roome; my Liver the Cesterne; my Bowels the sinke; my Lungs the Bellows; my teeth the Chopping-knives; except you divide them, and then they are the 32 points of the Sea-card both agreeing in number… (Robert Younge, The State of a Christian, 1636)
That manic voice insisting the human bodies and wooden ships occupy the same space is Richard Younge, from his broadsheet The State of a Christian (1636), a single-page work that also appears as a preface to Henry Mainwaring’s Sea-man’s Dictionary (1644). Its mania suggests how intensely and how physically oceanic experience stimulated the early modern imagination. Younge hurls human body parts, Christian souls, and nautical terms together. The resulting conceptual soup provides a frame through which to consider how shipwreck narratives reveal the dynamic meanings of the ocean in early modern English culture. Early modern shipwreck narratives were symbolic performances through which writers tested their own, and their culture’s, experiential knowledge of the ocean. Narratives of maritime disaster lay bare the tremendous stress, practical and symbolic, that the transoceanic turn of European culture created in English habits of orientation. Representations of shipwreck provide a resonant but unfamiliar model for ideas about cultural change in rapidly expanding early modern English culture.