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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Second Death: Theatricalities of the Soul in Shakespeare
by Sherman, Donovan Hall, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2011, 228; 3454454
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores how the figure of the soul engages with early modern English theatre and drama. In the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, the artistic and political cartography of the soul was enmeshed in multilayered belief-systems, as residual Catholic ritual mingled with Pauline faith, encroaching discourses of empiricism emerged in humanistic inquiry, and diversified cultural subgroups gained prominence in the dawning globalization of the market economy. Within this cultural negotiation, the soul became paradoxically both hyper-legible and intangible; I propose that theatrical literature, and performance broadly conceived, provide sites in which the resulting tension arises with unique dynamism. After laying out my historical and theoretical groundwork, three chapters present close readings of Shakespearean plays—The Merchant of Venice, Coriolanus, and The Winter’s Tale—as engagements with the anxieties that surrounded the soul. Each chapter furthermore centers on a particular set of performative manifestations of the soul that converses with the play in question: for Merchant, I analyze the phenomenon of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls; for Coriolanus, the monument, and its constituent acts of memorialization; and for The Winter’s Tale, the mourning practices of the elegy. Drawing from a wide range of texts, notably selections from Donne, Milton, Montaigne, Foxe, Stow, Ficino, Jonson, Tourneur, and Spenser, I assert that these plays expose—and provocatively comment on—the contingencies and paradoxes upon which the soul, and thus life itself, established itself in the wider conceptual realm. Throughout, I utilize trauma theory, and portions of its psychoanalytic genealogy, to illuminate the patterns of representation and absence in my readings. The soul, I contend, acts as a distinct form of trauma, producing a symptomology of attempts to narrativize and claim it even as it eludes signification.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Reynolds, Bryan
Commitee: Kubiak, Anthony J., Lupton, Julia R., Munro, Ian A., Roxworthy, Emily E.
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Drama and Theatre - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, British and Irish literature, Theater History
Keywords: Literature, Performance, Renaissance, Shakespeare, William, Soul, Spirituality, Theatre, Theatricality
Publication Number: 3454454
ISBN: 978-1-124-63823-2
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