Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another Prelims Update

Since I last posted, I have read the following:
  • Shakespeare's Pericles (1607/8) - I have a feeling I'm going to need to come back to this one, particularly when I get to Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, due chiefly to conflicts between a young woman's filial duty and her view of her spiritual calling. I also see parallels with The Tempest (Dreher says both Marina and Miranda are "redemptive daughters" as are all the daughters in Shakespeare's Romances), though I think Pericles is less of a straightforward romance due to the complications introduced by the incest plots between Antiochus/Thaisa and Pericles/Marina. Other things to consider: Pericles thought to be cowritten with George Wilkins. WS responsible for just over 800 lines, most of those concerning Pericles and Marina. This seems to validate the filial duty connection I'm seeing with some of his other works. Lastly, there's obvious shades of Oedipus, what with taboo sexuality being prophesied and proven unavoidable or fated. Not sure what to do with that, but I think I should know it's there, at any rate.
  • Shakespeare's Hamlet (1600) - This is the first play I'm teaching in my Women in Shakespeare class in the Fall, so I'm thinking about it on multiple levels. I know I want to point to the publication year and relate that to questions of Elizabethan succession. Indeed, the play begins with a question about identity (Bernardo's "Who's there?" to Francisco upon the changing of the watch), and that unsure tone continues until its body-strewn ending. All the play's characters are trying to figure out their places in a rapidly changing world, and none of them do this very well. Bradley says Ophelia is sheltered and naive, but I think he overstates that case, especially given that she seems to both understand and respond to Hamlet's innuendo prior to The Mousetrap, and because of how frank and accusatory she is after she goes mad, when she passes out flowers. Perhaps she is freed to do so by her madness, but that seems empowering to me. Bradley reads it as wholly tragic, speaking of her eternally surrounded by delicate flowers in the minds of readers. I think he's patronizing. I'll talk about Gertrude when I cover Janet Adelman's book Suffocating Mothers, as well as when I read Lacan and Freud, which should be next week sometime.
  • Shakespeare's Othello (1603) - Need to mention animal imagery and the importance of storytelling/mysticism in connection with Daileader's discussions of "jungle fever." To contest/explain Bradley's distaste for Emilia, point to her protofeminism, as well as her understanding and use of figurative language (prove she understands Iago and can use his linguistic tools). If Desdemona is "wholly passive" as Bradley claims (and I think she is, mostly because of her response to "Who did this to you?": "Nobody. I myself."), I don't think it's because of her loving nature, but because of a naivete and a wish for escape. He actions are coded and passive because they are feminine and love-related.
  • Diane Dreher's Domination and Defiance: Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare (1986) - Dreher discusses different types of daughters and fathers in Shakespeare's plays. Will edit this to provide more detail in the next few days once I organize my notes better.
  • A.C. Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy (1905) - Bradley's mode is often called "character criticism," as he refers to the plays' characters as though they were real people, speculating often on their internal motivations and asserting that, while it may be impossible for modern readers to know these motivations for sure, Shakespeare did without a doubt. I'm not sure this is true (couldn't he have been being purposefully ambiguous?), but my biggest bone to pick with Bradley is his tendency to oversimplify the female characters he discusses, even those he admits are important and often improperly read, like Desdemona and Ophelia. I do agree with his assessment of Iago, who he says is a great villain because he's a fantastic observer of people, and that his downfall comes when he , in his desire to know these people and his motivations, does not truly know himself or his own motivations. I think this fits with Iago's refusal to "speak word" at the end of the play because he controls his environment as much as he can in that moment, just as he has all along, but, in the wake of the play's awful violence, all of which is the result of a lack of cross-gendered communication that he put in motion, further silence comes across as childish and petulant, even as Iago himself reads it as the end to a sophisticated master plot.
  • Eve K. Sedgwick's Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) Sedgwick uses the term "homosocial" to refer to same-sex friendships, noting that the line between such relationships and homoerotic or homosexual ones is thin and tenuous. Because of the threat of this overlap, women are often employed as mediators in male homosocial relationships, creating a relational triangle in which it appears the two men are focused on the affections of the woman. Sedgwick argues that such relational formations erase and devalue women while purporting to center and elevate them. Cf. Shakespeare's sonnets to the young man, Spenser's Shepheardes Calendar, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Petrarch's sonnets and the courtly love social structure.
  • Celia Daileader's Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth (2005) - Daileader coins the term "Othellophilia" to refer to the cultural obsession with romantic or sexual relationships between black men and white women, saying that such a preoccupation stems from a desire to divert attention from the much more historically accurate "slaveholder's secret"--the frequent rape of black female slaves by their white owners. Stereotypes: hypersexuality, exoticism, "jungle fever" as a result of both of the previous stereotypical characteristics.
This brings my total texts read to 16/99. Slowly making progress!

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