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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Joseph Black

Second Advisor

Adam Zucker

Third Advisor

Monika Schmitter

Fourth Advisor

Josiah Blackmore

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles | Renaissance Studies


This dissertation stages an unprecedented dialogue between the maritime, the literary, and the legal within the context of the English Renaissance. It positions the ocean as an essentially legal space and argues that law mediates all human-ocean interactions. Additionally, it contends that an understanding of legal conceptions of the sea is essential to developing a cultural awareness of maritime space. Therefore, my project resituates early modern literary engagements with the ocean within a complex body of legal and political discourses and argues that in an island nation such as England, knowledge of the sea was widespread. Consequently, the ubiquitous maritime references in the period’s literature were founded on real legal knowledge that literary scholars can consider in their readings of these texts. Through its synthesis of canonical literary works such as Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) and Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612, 1622) and legal texts such as William Welwood’s An Abridgement of all Sea-Lawes (1613), Alberico Gentili’s Hispanicae advocationis libri duo (1613), and John Selden’s Mare clausum (1635), this dissertation offers four case studies that illuminate the rich possibilities when maritime law inhabits the same scholarly space as English Renaissance literature.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.