This article posits the importance of John Dee’s Brytanici Imperii Limites in navigating the borders of credibility from the premodern to the post-truth era. While participating in the stated empiricism of early modern scholars like John Leland, Dee also drew upon the methodologies of factually suspect medieval writers like Geoffrey of Monmouth, combining credible documents, vague claims, and outright fabrications to craft justifications for empire expansion that eclipsed what any of Dee’s contemporaries had argued. And while Dee’s fictions have perpetuated his reputation as a “conjurer”—and may threaten to posit him as a precedent for our current inundation with what Harry G. Frankfurt has called “bullshit”—closer inspection illustrates that Dee is neither liar nor con artist. He expected his audience to credit his expertise and appreciate the larger goals of his audacious claims— a far cry from modern audiences’ tendency to forsake the creative scholar in favor of the seductive bullshitter.
Conjuring History:The Premodern Origins and Post-Truth Legacy of John Dee’s Brytanici Imperii Limites
Blaire Zeiders; Conjuring History:The Premodern Origins and Post-Truth Legacy of John Dee’s Brytanici Imperii Limites. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2019; 49 (2): 377–401. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-7506570
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