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Belief and agency in wartime

The British people, faced with the prospect of a second, devastating ‘total’ war for the second time in just over twenty years, drew on a wide range of beliefs, rituals and superstitions as they attempted to cope with the demands of this new conflict. This chapter surveys religious practice and religious belief during the war years, including the widespread interest in spiritualism and the possibilities of continued contact with the dead. It goes on to look at other rituals and everyday beliefs, such as astrology, superstition and the development of particular rituals by individuals and by groups. It concludes with an examination of beliefs about death, drawing on material collected by Mass Observation during the war years.

in Dying for the nation
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Revisiting the ‘cellarage scene’ in Hamlet

The ‘cellarage scene’, which follows Hamlet’s interview with the Ghost, stages the latter in a very ambiguous and disconcerting way. This chapter turns to more popular, medieval, intertextual antecedents of Hamlet’s ghostly figure, arguing that this sequence looks back towards medieval stage traditions that survived into the late-sixteenth century, not only because the couple formed by the subterranean Ghost and Hamlet is reminiscent of that of the Devil and the Vice in morality plays, but also because of other, more specific elements like the plurality of the oath, Hamlet’s disrespectful tone and the nicknames given by Hamlet to the Ghost. The whole sequence may be seen both as a living tableau on the stage and as comic relief, part of Hamlet’s wider propensity for puns.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Double Ariel in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest (2017)

Recent puppet theory engages with how this ancient form exists in dialogue with contemporary digital technologies. In 2017, the Royal Shakespeare Company mounted an ambitious production of The Tempest in which Mark Quarterly’s performance as Ariel was rendered alongside a digital puppet through the use of live motion capture technology. This chapter examines how the hardware and software used by the RSC and Intel to render Quarterly’s ‘Double Ariel’ engages with The Tempest’s themes of liminality, and specifically Ariel’s liminal textual status as a supernatural entity. By deconstructing the technical systems used to render Ariel’s avatar in this production, the chapter also explores processes of iterative ‘technodramaturgy’ – the interplay between traditional dramaturgies and the innate, often concealed dramaturgies of technical systems themselves (software, hardware or mechanical). In the RSC Tempest, this technodramaturgy heightened the wonder and spectacle of Shakespeare’s sprite, leading to theatrical discoveries around rendering the supernatural through digital puppetry.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
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Death and destruction of the body in war

This chapter examines how neoliberalism engineers its own unique rendition of the nationalist crisis through recourse to discourses of meritocratic competition, the entrepreneurial self and individual will, alongside its exaltation of a ‘points-system’ approach to the ills of immigration. A traditional concern of the neoliberal right posits that a market-society ideal is hampered by cultures of welfare dependency and the absence of individual responsibility. This neoliberal position individualises outcomes of success and failure, muting in turn issues of structure and access. But, again, important questions arise regarding the imperative of this neoliberal frame to also racialise conceptions of failure, dependency and national crisis. This is a neoliberal denigration of the racialised outsider that operates through the categories of blackness, the Muslim and the pervasive notion of the inadequate and undesirable migrant. As regards the pathologisation of immigration, particular emphasis will be placed on the unique shaming of the Roma that has recently found a place in British commentary and visual culture.

in Dying for the nation
Death, grief and bereavement in Second World War Britain

This book places death squarely at the centre of war. Focused on Second World War Britain, it draws on a range of public and private sources to explore the ways that British people experienced death, grief and bereavement in wartime. It examines the development of the emotional economy within which these experiences took place; the role of the British state in planning for wartime death and managing and memorialising those who died, and the role of the dead in the postwar world. Arguing that cultures of bereavement and the visibility of grief in wartime were shaped by the Great War, the book traces the development of cultures of death grief and bereavement through the first half of the 20th century. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including diaries, letters, memoirs, newspapers, magazines and government papers, it considers civilian death in war alongside military death, and examines the ways that gender, class and region shaped death, grief and bereavement for the British in war.

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The emotional economy of interwar Britain

Chapter Two discusses the emotional economy of interwar Britain, Examining the range of different cultural texts that advised people on the management of emotions, and the desirability of restraint and stoicism, it shows how the British people were encouraged to be self-reflective and to work to understand, and thus manage, their emotions. Self-restraint, it argues, became seen as a key and desirable aspect of modernity. The chapter begins by examining the impact of the Great War on grief and religious practice in the interwar period before examining the development of a historically specific emotional economy that valued self-reflection and restraint. It concludes by discussing the growth of a popular psychology in the 1930s, and the impact of this focus on emotional self-management on British people as they prepared for a second, devastating, war.

in Dying for the nation
Transforming gender and magic on stage and screen

This chapter explores our current moment in the history of The Tempest in performance, in which female actors have increasingly taken on the role of Prospero, transforming him into Prospera. Goodland challenges the prevailing view that this change is seamless, arguing that it reveals implicit bias against women in that they are largely viewed as mothers rather than as magi. She shows this by examining the tension between feminist scholarship and play reviews in three high-profile productions: Blair Brown’s 2003 stage portrayal at McCarter Theatre, Olympia Dukakis’s 2012 performance at Shakespeare & Company and Helen Mirren’s 2010 Prospera in the film by Julie Taymor. While Shakespeare’s play ultimately suggests that the difference between Prospero and Sycorax, between male and female forms of magic, is illusory, Goodland’s analysis shows that the replacement of a male body with a female body is not so seamless. Bodies matter. The biases of our twenty-first century culture are written in the laws that endeavour to control women’s bodies and in the reviews that construe their value to society under the category of a domesticated motherhood rather than as individuals who are leaders and scientists.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
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Bereavement, grief and the emotional labour of wartime

Like the dead, the grief of the bereaved could be put to work for the nation, or it could disrupt morale and collectivity. It thus had to be carefully managed. This chapter considers the ways that the British people were expected and encouraged to undertake the ‘labour of loss’ in ways that could be mobilised for the war effort. Beginning with a discussion of the multiple ways that grief was represented in cultural texts, it goes on to explore some of the texts that record individual’s own attempts to understand, and manage, their emotional response to wartime loss. Grief, it argues, could threaten both self composure, and the composure of the national wartime body.

in Dying for the nation
Young Adult literature and the metaphorical wolf

Twentieth-century werewolves, with their monthly transformations, violent outbursts and sudden sprouting of hair, have become a ready metaphor for adolescence in popular culture. Teen Wolf (Rod Daniel, 1985) encapsulates the connection between teenager and lycanthrope. Concentrating on Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (2009–2011) and Annette Curtis Klaus’s Blood and Chocolate (1997), this chapter uncovers the assumption at the core of this metaphor: that teenagers, like werewolves, are animalistic and, moreover, that the wolf is lesser to the ‘were’. Thus, to use the language of the Gothic, both werewolves and adolescents are made liminal in this structure. By looking at the teenage werewolf from the point of view of the wolf, the author looks to address the lower status of the animal and return the wolf’s voice.

in In the company of wolves
The metafictional meanings of lycanthropic transformations in Doctor Who

Given the intertextual tendencies of the franchise, it is perhaps surprising to find that, applying a narrow definition, the werewolf has featured only twice in the BBC television series Doctor Who: once in the form of the punk shapeshifter Mags in ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ (1988–9), then again in that of the foundling host of ‘Tooth and Claw’ (2006). If, however, the genus is approached in a more inclusive spirit, these examples are soon joined by other contenders: the Primords of ‘Inferno’ (1970), for instance, and the Lukoser from the ‘Mindwarp’ episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord (1986). Looking beyond televised stories to the novels published by Virgin and the BBC, the audio dramas produced by Big Finish and comic strips featured in the Doctor Who magazines, it becomes clear that the Whovian werewolf pack is much bigger than it first appears. In exploring some of the ways in which the folkloric hybrid has been adapted to the mythos of Doctor Who at various times and in multiple formats through a period of more than half a century, this chapter is able to comment on the wider cultural adaptability and significance of the werewolf and its primal cousins.

in In the company of wolves