Sexuality, Theory, History, Drama (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 2012 semester seminar led by Mario DiGangi.

This seminar explored and expanded the repertoire of scholarly methods for reading sexuality in early modern drama, with an eye to current debates and future directions for the field. Participants considered how different theoretical and historical approaches have produced varying accounts of sexuality as an object of inquiry; they engaged various reading strategies for elucidating sexual meaning in dramatic texts; and they reflected critically on questions of evidence, affect, gender, subjectivity, language, genre, theatricality, textual editing, and periodization. The following kinds of questions guided the discussion: What are the consequences of emphasizing historical alterity, as opposed to historical continuity, in the study of sexuality? Are concepts such as sexual identity, subjectivity, or community useful in analyzing early modern modes of eroticism? How might the field move beyond familiar sexual paradigms and taxonomies (i.e., homoeroticism/heteroeroticism) to access alternative forms of erotic knowledge, practice, and relationality in early modern culture? How do particular textual and performative elements (i.e., puns, soliloquies, gestures, costumes, voices, metatheatrical moments, offstage actions) convey or confound sexual meaning? To address these and additional matters raised by their research interests, participants read a range of early modern dramatic and non-dramatic texts drawn from the Folger’s collections; plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Middleton, and Beaumont and Fletcher were included on the reading list.

Director: Mario DiGangi is Professor of English at Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, where he serves as Executive Officer of the Ph.D. Program in English. He is the author of The Homoerotics of Early Modern Drama (1997) and Sexual Types: Embodiment, Agency, and Dramatic Character from Shakespeare to Shirley (2011). He is currently working on a book exploring affective politics in the Elizabethan history play.