For several decades the importance of Cixous’s work In the English-speaking world has been represented primarily in terms of ‘feminism’, ‘feminist theory’ and ‘women’s writing’. This chapter proposes that it might more aptly be construed in terms of ‘the uncanny’, the troublingly strange and/or strangely familiar. This figure, it is argued, also proves crucial for understanding the affinities between Cixous and Derrida. Particular attention is given to Cixous’s reading of Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’ in her remarkable essay ‘Fiction and Its Phantoms’ (1972), together with her somewhat later reflections on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. F. W. J. Schelling memorably described the feeling of the uncanny as arising when ‘what ought to have remained secret and hidden … comes to light’. This sense of unveiling links up with Cixous’s reading of Carroll as the author of ‘escaping texts’, where ‘escape’ is understood first of all as literally ‘getting out of one’s cape’. Exposition of another ‘cloak’-word, Humpty Dumpty’s neologistic ‘portmanteau’ (literally, ‘cloak-’ or ‘mantle- carrying’), leads to an account of Cixous’s work as double- or portmanteau-writing. The portmanteau comes to designate an uncanny double logic of the ‘escaping text’ and what ‘escapes text’.
Josette Bushell-Mingo’s Cleopatra, Royal Exchange, Manchester, 2005; Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ‘radical edit’, Royal Shakespeare Company, The Public and GableStage, 2013
Carol Chillington Rutter
This chapter concludes a discussion that has run through the whole book, beginning with the observation that Shakespeare wrote Cleopatra as a black queen of Egypt, a representation that subsequent performance in Britain has whited out, most obviously since 1953, even as it has recruited black (or blacked-up) bodies to be placed alongside white Cleopatras as if, by juxtaposition, to annex to her elite body atavistic ideas of orientalism, exoticism, ‘hot’ sexuality. While ‘fringe’ theatres in the UK – the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow; the Hackney Empire; University College’s student theatre; the Royal Exchange, Manchester – installed blackness at the centre of their productions (as did numbers of foreign productions), the power centres of UK Shakespeare production – the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre -- cast a blind eye on Shakespeare’s racial writing in Antony and Cleopatra. That changed in 2013 when the Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned Tarell Alvin McCraney to produce a ‘radical edit’ of the play, which he set on the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue at the time of the 1791 slave rebellion. Relocating the play, McCraney mobilised a black history that re-ignited the race politics and recalculated the costs of regime change written into Shakespeare’s original.
This chapter elaborates a theory of side thinking out of Cixous’s work. Side thinking has to do with previously unrecognised ways of thinking centre and margin, the explicitation of a logic of the side and side-effects, supplement and parergon, the effects of a thinking that operates on structures by a certain sideswiping or sidelining within. I develop this argument through a close reading of Cixous’s FirstDays of the Year (starting with its use of the eerie third-person formulation, thought the author, and its pervasive contention that ‘thinking is not what you think’), alongside Jacques Derrida’s H.C. for Life, That Is to Say… ‘Side thinking’ engages with a diverse array of topics, including amphibology, telepathy, literature and psychoanalysis, love and friendship, climate change, Brexit and nationalism. Extensive attention is given to the work of Samuel Beckett (in particular Endgame, Happy Days and Embers) and to Cixous’s book Zero’s Neighbour: Sam Beckett.
One of the (reconstructed) Globe’s early attempts at simulating ‘authentic’ Jacobean performance conditions – its so-called ‘original practices Shakespeare’ – this production put an ‘authentic’ all-male cast on stage in ‘authentic’ early modern costumes. This chapter interrogates the premise of authenticity and critiques performances, particularly Mark Rylance’s as Cleopatra, that registered both textual and semiotic incoherence. If the aim of reconstructing Shakespeare’s Globe was to provide ‘a machine to test … original staging’, what, this chapter wonders, did this production teach audiences about Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra? Answering, it proposes that the great discovery of ‘original practices staging’ was to understand this play as a comedy and Cleopatra as a clown.
This chapter locates Antony and Cleopatra on the Jacobean stage. It contextualises the regime change which the play dramatises to the regime change then occupying England after the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. It proposes a connection between The Masque of Blackness, ordered by Queen Anna for the Christmas revels in 1605, when she and her female courtiers blacked up to play Egyptian ‘daughters of Niger’, and both Shakespeare’s Othello, staged at court in November 1604, and Antony and Cleopatra, 1606. Like The Masque of Blackness, Shakespeare’s Egyptian play put a black queen on stage. Was Shakespeare’s play a sequel to Anna’s? How was the Jacobean casting managed? No doubt Richard Burbage was Shakespeare’s first Antony. But who first played Cleopatra?
This chapter argues that the writings of Cixous and Derrida offer new ways of thinking about psychoanalysis. Neither was ever ‘in analysis’; both are committed, however, to what Derrida calls the ‘psychoanalytic revolution’, i.e. the only revolution ‘not to rest, not to seek refuge, in principle, in … a theological or humanist alibi’. Both Cixous and Derrida are constantly interested, also, in the ways in which Freud’s thinking at once falters at and illuminates the question of literature. This chapter investigates these issues in particular in terms of the notions of telepathy and magic. As was noted in Chapter 3, Freud is for Cixous ‘the Shakespeare of the night’: attention is here given to what she calls Freud’s ‘cartography of dreams’ and its correspondences with the work of Joseph Popper-Lynkeus (especially ‘Phantasies of a Realist’), as a basis for thinking about realism and hyperrealism, fantasy, dream and what Derrida terms ‘literary hyperconscience’. This leads in turn to a discussion of Cixous’s favourite Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Glen Byam Shaw, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1953
Carol Chillington Rutter
With Shaw’s 1953 production – the first post-war English production – at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, the modern history of Antony and Cleopatra in performance begins. Informed by Shaw’s wartime experiences and by a close reading of the notebooks he kept while still in uniform in preparation for a future production, this chapter sees Shaw’s Antony and Cleopatra as a product of both residual colonialism and a global war that set civilisations in genocidal conflict – not unlike Rome v. Egypt ending in Actium. Designed by Margaret Harris (of the Motley team) to astonish drab post-war Britain with costumes in colours that made spectators gasp and on a set that allowed the play’s action to move uninterrupted on a stage uncluttered with superfluous ‘stuff’, this production put a star couple at its centre – Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Redgrave – and surrounded them with a Orientalist retinue that the promptbook described collectively as ‘wogs’. The tragedy of this Antony and Cleopatra was Antony’s: Redgrave played the ruin of a magnificent soldier. The triumph was Cleopatra’s: Ashcroft’s queen played one last seduction – that ended making an ‘ass’ of Caesar.
This chapter focuses on Gabriel Harvey’s ‘Greenes Memoriall’, a sonnet
sequence that forms part of his pamphlet Foure Letters and Certaine Sonnets
(1592). Harvey’s pamphlet, a response to Robert Greene’s slandering him and
his brothers, is commonly regarded as vengeful, but the sonnets in the
volume display a conscious effort on Harvey’s part to conquer his anger. The
chapter argues that Harvey intends to show his journey from initial anger
towards greater emotional detachment and a balance of temper. His surprising
choice to express himself through sonnets (a format he was not very familiar
with and perhaps not very good at) may be explained as a strategy within his
struggle to regain his temper: the trope of sonnet as a form that
exemplifies the ‘sweetness’ of poetry serves to illustrate the idea of
restoring a healthy balance of temper, because the sonnet serves to
neutralise the ‘bitter gall’ of his anger. Thus Harvey was effectively
self-medicating through poetry, and grappling with the constraints of metre
and rhyme in an unfamiliar poetic form forced him to detach himself from his
anger and to consider more carefully how to express his points than he might
have done in prose.
Barnabe Barnes, who published Parthenophil and Parthenophe in 1593, and A
Divine Centurie of Spirituall Sonnets in 1595, is a unique example of an
author releasing two printed sonnet sequences, one secular, one sacred, in
two years’ span. The chapter argues that the two works might be understood
as a Petrarchan diptych consistent with Barnes’s authorial strategy. The
godly poems of A Divine Centurie seem devised to remind the reader of the
lewd verse of Parthenophil and Parthenophe and to highlight the connections
between the two works; the purpose of such intricacy was probably for Barnes
to produce a representation of himself as having undergone a moral
conversion – a Petrarchan career pattern that Richard Helgerson described in
his Elizabethan Prodigals. Though Barnes’s staged conversion was probably
targeted at the Bishop of Durham, the fact that his second sonnet sequence
was printed, and therefore also aimed at a wider readership, calls for
further hypotheses. Barnes’s recantation might have had to do with his
desire to protect his reputation from the damaging effects of the
Harvey–Nashe quarrel in which he was indirectly involved.
This volume questions and qualifies commonly accepted assumptions about the early
modern English sonnet: that it was a strictly codified form, most often
organised in sequences, which emerged only at the very end of the sixteenth
century and declined as fast as it had bloomed at the turn of the century – and
that minor poets merely participated in the sonnet fashion by replicating
established conventions. Drawing from book history, using the tools of close
reading and textual criticism, it aims to offer a more nuanced history of the
form in early modern England – and especially of the so-called ‘sonnet craze’.
It does so by exploring the works of such major poets as Shakespeare, Sidney and
Spenser but also of lesser-studied sonneteers such as Barnabe Barnes and Gabriel
Harvey. It discusses how sonnets were written, published, received and
repurposed in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, taking into account
interactions with the French and Italian literary traditions. The collection
also discusses current editorial practices and provides the first modern edition
of an early seventeenth-century Elizabethan miscellany which claims the Earl of
Essex, Spenser and ‘S.P.S.’ (presumably Sir Philp Sidney) as authors.