"Performing Political Secrecy on the Early Modern Stage" on panel "Early Modern States of Mind"
Is it possible to disentangle the representation of a state of mind from its expression, particularly in Early Modern theatre? “Media determine our situation,” Friedrich Kittler observes, and Samuel Weber reminds us that theatricality is a determinative medium. Kittler’s word for situation is lage: “how things lie,” the situated nature of a thing in its circumstance. Given these conceptualizations, secretiveness is a state of mind particularly suited to be examined as embodied in the medium of Early Modern theatre. But where is the proverbial smoking gun? It occurs on a night in 1594, at Gray’s Inn in London. The audience is packed with all those officers of state who determine policy, and none other than Francis Bacon treats them to a theatrical performance that features as both the enactment of the structures of political secrecy and as the rhetorical invention of policy itself, carefully recorded in the Gesta Grayorum. The performance is a draft of the House of Solomon passages in New Atlantis, widely taken to be the model of the modern research university -- and of the contemporary intelligence agency. (View the RSA 2017 conference program)