More Matter for a May Morning: Evil May Day, 1517
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My seminar paper surveys accounts of Evil May Day from 1517 to The Play of Sir Thomas More (1603-04). It begins by analyzing contemporary accounts and chronicle histories. It then moves on to consider the ways in which the event has been understood by biographers as a seminal moment in the life of Thomas More. Shifting from the historical to the literary, it gestures towards the ways in which Utopia anticipates and attempts to make impossible events like Evil May Day, in large part because of Utopia’s radical reimagining of the early modern calendar.. My general position is that time-reckoning is contested throughout the early modern period, and that it is both more malleable than traditionalists would allow, and more sticky than reformers would prefer. Evil May Day is an unusually potent symbol for social conflict and social cohesion, and an anniversary which lingered in early modern imaginations.
Presented at the 2017 Shakespeare Association of America conference.