‘Past, Present, and Hereafter to be Written’: The Polytemporal Identities of John Dee

  • Rachel Reid

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis re-assesses what we know of John Dee within a context of what I have termed ‘polytemporality’. This approach questions Dee’s relationship to periodising conventions and to the historiographical recuperation of identity following perceived temporal ruptures (such as the Reformation). It challenges the standard notion of Dee as the archetypal ‘Renaissance conjurer’ by bringing to the forefront Dee’s own assessment of the ‘past, present and hereafter’ of his reputation. It argues that Dee’s multiple identities are instead reflective of a polytemporal reflexivity that is heightened by a conflict between his intellectual hubris and personal insecurity. Dee emerges as a figure poised uncomfortably in and outside of his society’s conceptions of temporality, influenced by the past and self-consciously aware of the future. The temporal fracturing prompted by the Reformation and the ensuing struggle to re-establish a British historiography of continuity and succession is reflected in the instability and impermanence of Dee’s own changing identities. Dee’s concern for his posthumous reputation juxtaposes the self-assuredness of his intellectual self-image, providing glimpses of the man behind the magus. In this thesis Dee is ‘revisited, repeated […] reinterpreted, and reshuffled’ (Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 75), and emerges as a man before, between, and behind his times: a polytemporal Dee.
Date of AwardJul 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorStephen Kelly (Supervisor)

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