The State Of England's Camp: Courtesans, curses, and the violence of style in The Unfortunate Traveller
Thomas Nashe's mystifying The Unfortunate Traveller offers few clues to explain its fundamental purpose, its grotesque depictions of violence, its outrageous rhetoric, or its relationship to forms of linguistic, literary, and social authority. While this text begins amidst Henry VIII's conquests, one soon realizes that ‘the state of England's camp’ in Nashe's early modernity pertains both to the military encampment and to incidences of outrageous, ironic theatrical citation that occur within those encampments and that are now associated with the term ‘camp.’ As Jack Wilton strays from the dangerous pranks of England's camps to the degenerate pleasures of Italy, his textual performance oscillates between dissembling, feminine persuasion, associated with the courtesan (who was, for Nashe, a figure of the writer) and brutal, unforgiving masculine force, associated with the vengeful curses of the blasphemer. Nashe's prose explores degraded forms of orality (speaking, tasting, and eating) with a theatrical morbidity that reveals the subject of The Unfortunate Traveller to be the development of a style to balance the limitless violence of rhetorical assertion with the effeminizing effects of commercial publication. As Nashe's parodic compensations for the lived contradictions of gender, commerce, and writing backfire spectacularly, the style and subject of The Unfortunate Traveller truly emerge.
courtesans; style; Thomas Nashe; masculinity