Gender, Power, and Politics on the Early Modern Stage


In this class we will explore the representation of gendered embodiment on the early modern stage, considering as we do so how theatrical embodiment intersects with other treatments of the body in early modern culture. We will read both early modern and contemporary theoretical accounts of gender as performance, investigating among other issues the use of boy actors, the representation of specifically “female” disorders (e.g., “suffocation” or hysteria), the performance of maternity, and the treatment of same-sex eroticism. Of particular importance will be the representation of the articulate or angry woman as the “shrew” or “scold,” and we will begin the class with an investigation of so-called “shrew-taming” narratives. Primary readings will include: Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter’s Tale, Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, and Cavendish’s Convent of Pleasure. We will end the semester by examining the complex nexus of gender, race, and power in contemporary political and popular culture, focusing in particular on the representation of Hillary Clinton, Anita Hill, Michelle Obama, and Christine Blasey Ford, with commentary by Rebecca Traister, Brittney Cooper, and Lindy West.

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