Controversy in Seventeenth-Century English Coffeehouses: Transcultural Interactions with an Oriental Import
AuthorPierce, Mary Lynn
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBy analyzing and contextualizing the polarized discourses on coffee and coffeehouses in post-1652 England, this dissertation argues that the divisive worldviews of the English population at this critical historical juncture shaped the contentious reception of coffee. Countless scholarly efforts dealing with seventeenth-century coffeehouses, those of London in particular, have helped explaining the rapid growing popularity of coffee and the establishments in which it was consumed, the coffeehouse. Building upon exiting literature, this work advances a new approach to shed light the interconnection between social and cultural anxieties, paradoxes and contradictions in seventeenth-century English society, and the contradictory discourses surrounding the rise of coffee in England. My project demonstrates that pervasive anxieties about the rise of religious heterodoxy, the ambiguous dispositions of the English people towards the Ottoman Turks, and the ever-present concerns surrounding the tenuous state of patriarchal manhood collectively helped to both encourage and discourage interactions with the Islamic practice of coffee drinking in coffeehouses. Coffee and coffeehouses came from the Ottoman Empire, the land of the presumed Turks. One sector of society, the optimists, embraced the exotic novelty from the Islamic world and participated enthusiastically in a custom shared with their Turkish, Arab and Persian counterparts since the early sixteenth century. Conversely, the pessimists vilified the adoption of cultural and dietary practices from a non-Christian society; they condemned the enthusiasts' cosmopolitanism as a sign of disloyalty that would only deepen discord in the nation. Indeed, they proclaimed the craze for the Turkish-imported habit as a sign of degeneration, threatening not just Englishmen's religiosity, but also their manliness. Coffee and coffeehouse came from the Ottoman Empire, the land of the presumed effeminate Turks at that. Intimate intermingling with this imported novelty thus compromised England's identity and even sovereignty. By relying upon a borderlands approach that is inspired by gender analysis, this dissertation seeks an alternative theoretical path to explain the controversy and contention swirling around a new drink and novel spaces of sociability among a populace dislocated by years of religious, political and cultural turmoil.
Degree ProgramGraduate College