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Faculty Profile - Jeffrey Galbraith

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Jeffrey Galbraith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English

On Faculty since 2011
630.752.5234



My scholarship focuses on the contentious discourse of obedience in print culture of the Restoration and eighteenth century. Although the government frequently used prepublication licensing to enforce compliance and silence dissent, submission to authority flourished as a subject of debate in broadsides, sixpenny tracts, satire, drama, and early novels. Differences of opinion led to frequent controversy, prompting a flurry of texts that at times seemed riotous in its effects. These debates, which stemmed from the project to rebuild society following the destruction of the Civil War, drive my research questions: First, what textual and literary innovations did authors develop in their attempts to restore obedience among the reading public? Second, what does it mean when certain authors choose to reject what others tout as freedoms, refusing to embrace the advances of modernity?

My current book project—titled Restoring Obedience: The Afterlife of the Reformation from Dryden to Johnson—examines how Restoration and eighteenth-century authors wrestled with the Lutheran principles of passive obedience and non-resistance that distinguished efforts to institute the Reformation in Tudor England. The reappearance of this scriptural mode of obedience in the eighteenth century, and the responses it provoked, set the terms for some of the central authors of the period, including John Dryden, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Samuel Johnson. In the work of these authors, depictions of obedience serve as hinge-texts that look both backward and forward. Specifically, my project argues that the discourse of obedience provides insight into secularity’s influence on religious belief. The term “secularity” has served since the Enlightenment to describe the waning of religious belief and its removal from public space. In A Secular Age (2007), Charles Taylor introduces a more reflexive sense of the term to focus on the shifting conditions of belief. In Taylor’s conjectural history, although religious belief once constituted the default choice beyond which men and women did not venture, it ramified during the Reformation to provide individuals with an increasing range of options. Because belief was no longer axiomatic, the survival of theism required a process of public argumentation. It is this publicity, I argue, that separates the initial manifestation of Reformation Christianity in sixteenth-century England from its recovery and espousal two centuries later. The definition of secularity as publicity is useful for examining how belief continued to adapt and even thrive in the period, thus offering an alternative to the narrative of disenchantment that orients many scholarly accounts.

In addition to my research in Restoration and eighteenth-century literature, I have also taught creative writing. I recently published a book of poetry, Painstaker.

Indiana University
Ph. D., 18th Century Literature

Boston University
M. A., Creative Writing

  • British Literature
  • 18th Century Literature

Dr. Galbraith has delivered conference papers on John Dryden, Jonathan Swift, and the politics of eighteenth-century theater at the University of Chicago and meetings of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. He has presented a chapter of his dissertation at the Harvard University graduate student colloquium. Dr. Galbraith was invited to lecture at the History of the Book seminar at Indiana University. He was also awarded a Newberry Library Consortium grant to conduct research at the Folger Shakespeare Library. His book reviews and creative work have appeared in Books and Culture, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Florida Review, AGNI, and Religion in the Age of Enlightenment. Currently, he has a forthcoming article at the journal Restoration. His critical essay, “When Slavery Becomes Resistance: Questions of Obedience in Dryden’s Don Sebastian,” is part of an edited collection currently under review.

Sacheverell’s ‘Exploded’ Obedience: Restoration and Performance in the Early Eighteenth CenturyRestoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 42.1 (2018): 5-30.

Satire, Sincerity, and Swift’s ‘Exploded’ GospelChristianity and Literature. 67:1 (2017): 139-162.

Slavery and Obedience in Restoration and Early 18th-Century Drama, In Invoking Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century British Imagination.
Ed. Srividhya Swaminathan and Adam R. Beach, 77–92. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013.

The Performance of “Pious Fraud”: Reading Passive Obedience in Dryden’s Don Sebastian (1689), Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700
Jeffrey Galbraith, 2012.
This essay examines how obedience to authority structures John Dryden’s Don Sebastian, a tragicomedy produced after William of Orange deposed James II in the Revolution of 1688. Because Dryden resigned his position as Poet Laureate after the Revolution rather than swear an oath of allegiance to the new monarch, scholars have interpreted Don Sebastian as the work of a defeated loyalist hoping for the return of the exiled James II. The depiction of obedience in the play, however, goes beyond the question of who should possess the throne to comment more broadly on the agency available to individuals in relations of submission...
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