“The Wandering Signifier” : Representing the Jew in Seventeenth-Century France

Jennifer Perlmutter (Portland State University)

Emerging from the busy theater scene of Rouen in the first decades of the 17th century, Nicolas Chrétien’s 1608 tragedy Les Portugais infortunez explores one of the most fundamental historical shifts of the early modern period : the increased sense of planetary connectivity engendered by explorations and conquests. To probe this «univers agrandi», Chrétien stages the travails of a group of Portuguese, shipwrecked on their way home from a trading outpost in India. In this talk, I aim to explore how the playwright harnesses the unintentional border crossing of the Portuguese wanderers to consider a number of vexed juridical questions about international relations and diplomacy. Drawing upon recent theories of historical formalism, I will explore how the staging of the border crossings corresponds to a crossing of generic boundaries. In sum, I will hope to show, through this particular case study, how globalization puts pressure on the tragic genre, causing the latter to modify its rule.