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Lewis Carroll
Nicholas Royle

‘Cixous cuts’ are also about the desire for ‘no cut’, for the sort of seamless, cut-resistant writing that Cixous admires in Clarice Lispector. Such seamlessness is also an element of dreams. This chapter explores further the notion of ‘writing by dream’. While Joyce might seem the obvious precursor in this context, here it is argued that the writer with whom Cixous has most in common as one who ‘writes by dream’ is Lewis Carroll. This chapter seeks to elaborate on the affinities between Carroll and Cixous developed in the preceding chapter (‘Portmanteau’), through a detailed reading and analysis of the figure of the ‘cut’ in the Alice books. Cuts are everywhere in Carroll’s work, but even in the most mortifying example (decapitation) they are always strangely innocuous. This chapter argues that Carroll’s books do something new in the history of English fiction with the figure of the ‘cut’, above all through the logic whereby (in Cixous’s words) ‘effects precede their causes: first the piece of cake is eaten, then it is cut’. The Alice books emerge as key texts for understanding Cixous’s double concern with trauma and with narrative composition as (in the White Queen’s uncanny phrase) ‘living backwards’.

in Hélène Cixous
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Nicholas Royle

The phrase ‘dream in literature’ can be understood in three distinct but interrelated ways, as 1) the role and importance of dreams in literary works; 2) the impulse or compulsion to dream, to fall into reverie, to lose oneself in a dream or dreamlike state while reading a work of literature, the experience of becoming fascinated, immersed or set adrift in a book; and 3) where ‘dream’ is a speech act, an order, request, plea or desire: dream in literature as one might breathe in the night air, inhale a perfume or a strange gas. The chapter explores Cixous’s ‘writing by dream’ (as Derrida calls it), focusing in particular on the nature of the ‘I’ of the dreamer, and the relationship between ‘realisim’ and ‘telepathy’. It interweaves readings of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Ligeia’, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘The Question’, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, with readings of Cixous’s own writings (including Rootprints, Ayai! The Cry of Literature, Hyperdream, Abstracts and Brief Chronicles of the Time, and Death Shall Be Dethroned).

in Hélène Cixous
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On sitting down to read a letter from Freud
Nicholas Royle

This short chapter describes how the author wakes up awash in the sounds of seagull cries, and recalls having dreamed of receiving a letter from Freud (written in English, nearly eighty years after his death). All that can be recalled of the letter is a feeling of great pleasure and the phrase ‘probably not’. Pondering what to make of all this, the author telephones Cixous to ask for her thoughts. We are all insane in our dreams, Freud noted in his earliest work, Studies on Hysteria: comparison is made between the insanity of Sigmund Freud and the insanity of Donald Trump. Contrast is made between Freud’s openness to thinking the other, and Trump’s position in which, as Howard Jacobson puts it, ‘nothing strange to him is allowed entry’. Finally, attention is given to the question of ‘dream treatment’, above all the question of (in Cixous’s words in Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing) ‘how to treat the dream as dream’.

in Hélène Cixous
Foreign Antony and Cleopatra in Britain and abroad
Carol Chillington Rutter

This chapter looks at foreign productions of Antony and Cleopatra played on stages in the UK and abroad, in English and in translation: Peter Zadek’s Berliner Ensemble production in a specially commissioned German translation at the Edinburgh Festival; Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s modern Dutch, modern-dress, high-tech production in Amsterdam; and in Washington DC and in Stratford, Ontario, productions in English that nevertheless saw Shakespeare with foreign eyes. In every case, this chapter discovers the ‘foreign’ to be a problematic concept, as demonstrated first with the production that sets up the subsequent discussion, Theodore Komisarjevsky’s Antony and Cleopatra at the New Theatre (London) in 1936.

in Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra, 1677–1931
Carol Chillington Rutter

Observing that after Shakespeare’s death, while Antony and Cleopatra survived in print, it disappeared from the English stage for the next 150 years, this chapter looks in detail at the play that replaced it on the Restoration stage: John Dryden’s All for Love, or The World Well Lost. It reads All for Love as a domestic drama for a formally correct but licentious age that conducts a psychomachia across a series of two-handed ‘debate scenes’: will Antony be summoned back to Roman duty – or will he remain tangled in the captivating toils of the Egyptian queen? The chapter then fast-forwards across a number of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century productions that all used Dryden’s text before Shakespeare’s, Dryden-free, was returned to the stage in 1849, just at the moment that ‘Egyptomania’ hit England and when spectacular Shakespeare, Shakespeare performed with eye-popping scenes and lavish costuming, was the rage. The chapter ends surveying twentieth-century productions of the play up to 1931, seeing earlier theatrical extravaganzas that necessitated deep textual cuts and re-ordering of Shakespeare’s scenes giving way, under the direction of Harley Granville Barker, to Shakespeare restored, with all his words and scenes, mostly uncut, played in the right order.

in Antony and Cleopatra
Nicholas Royle

This concluding chapter proposes four neologisms for thinking about Cixous’s writings (and thus for gathering together the concerns of the book as a whole). 1) The nanoment (portmanteau of ‘nano-’ and ‘moment’) refers to something very brief, an abrupt, fleeting, interruptive, unforeseen moment that nonetheless has strange power of illumination or expansion. It offers opportunities to construe life, the world, ourselves and others anew. 2) ‘Narratoid’ (a portmanteau of ‘narration’ and ‘meteoroid’) refers to the ULO (‘unidentifiable literary object’), to the found (as if falling from the heavens) quality of certain words and phrases in Cixous, and to the way that these can explode and impact across a text. 3) ‘Omnicisence’ (a play on ‘omniscience’) refers to the sense that, in Derrida’s phrase, ‘there is no atom’. ‘Omnicisence’ is about Cixous’s ‘art of cutting’. It entails a way of thinking about literature (especially fictional narrative) that does not, however discreetly, rely on religious thinking (so-called narrative omniscience). 4) ‘Ornithophony’ (Cixous’s invention) alludes to all the ways in which thinking about human life, art and literature (especially voice and music) is bound up with birds. This is illustrated through a reading of Ulysses and Cixous’s The Exile of James Joyce.

in Hélène Cixous
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Author: Nicholas Royle

This book provides a lucid, wide-ranging and up-to-date critical introduction to the writings of Hélène Cixous (1937–). Cixous is often considered ‘difficult’. Moreover she is extraordinarily prolific, having published dozens of books, essays, plays and other texts. Royle avoids any pretence of a comprehensive survey, instead offering a rich and diverse sampling. At once expository and playful, original and funny, this micrological approach enables a new critical understanding and appreciation of Cixous’s writing. If there is complexity in her work, Royle suggests, there is also uncanny simplicity and great pleasure. The book focuses on key motifs such as dreams, the supernatural, literature, psychoanalysis, creative writing, realism, sexual differences, laughter, secrets, the ‘Mother unconscious’, drawing, painting, autobiography as ‘double life writing’, unidentifiable literary objects (ULOs), telephones, non-human animals, telepathy and the ‘art of cutting’. Particular stress is given to Cixous’s work in relation to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida, as well as to her importance in the context of ‘English literature’. There are close readings of Shakespeare, Emily Brontë, P. B. Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, for example, alongside in-depth explorations of her own writings, from Inside (1969) and ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1975) up to the present. Royle’s book will be of particular interest to students and academics coming to Cixous’s work for the first time, but it will also appeal to readers interested in contemporary literature, creative writing, life writing, narrative theory, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, queer theory, ecology, drawing and painting.

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A play that ‘approves the common liar’
Carol Chillington Rutter

This chapter looks at Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra as a script for performance. It considers the play’s rhetorical ‘signature’, its sources, dramatic structure, scenic writing, characters and casting, and the challenge it offers performance in staging a series of six ‘big’ deaths. It asks: is this play tragedy, comedy, history or farce?

in Antony and Cleopatra
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Dreamer, realist, analyst, writing
Nicholas Royle

This chapter provides a critical introduction to the voluminous writings of Hélène Cixous, foregrounding her importance in relation to literary studies, creative writing, autobiography and life writing, women’s writing and queer theory, psychoanalysis and deconstruction, poetic thinking and the visual arts. The chapter is organised around four principal motifs: Cixous as dreamer, realist and analyst, and finally (as if caught in the act) ‘writing’. In keeping with her own emphasis on the ‘play of the letter’, the book’s subtitle also provides an acronym: draw. The introduction closes with a discussion of Cixous’s interest in drawing and writing, and especially writing as drawing.

in Hélène Cixous
Nicholas Royle

A brief poem about Cixous’s encounter with a feather in the author’s garden. This closing piece picks up motifs of the garden, the secret, and the relation between human and non-human animals (especially birds) developed over the course of the book.

in Hélène Cixous