Wednesday, April 8, 2015

William Shakespeare was not a Homosexual

I could not write a tremendous essay at this point, but I'm clinging to the edge of the cliff of understanding and believe I could hold a conversation on the canonicity of [questionable?] literature.

I believe Eve Sedgwick is arguing that the claim against the canonicity of non-traditional literature is "assaultive" and "fatuous" because every "traditional" (by that I mean, canonized without the mention of homosexual, feminine, non-eurocentric writing) writer is [always] already a writer of non-traditional commentary.

Is there a female Shakespeare? Yes, because Shakespeare wrote about masculinity ("I dare do all that may become a man/who dare do more is none") and therefore he is commenting on femininity.

The Female Shakespeare. "You should be women/And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are so."

I will write on queer theory, but I won't assert that I am qualified to use the phrase "queer" or that I am completely au fait with the theory (but I can fake my way through French just as well as the next theorist). Following is assertive language that will flow without excessive hesitation despite any possible reservations of my confidence.

Queer theory is the call to explore commentaries on gender and sexuality made through text whether intentionally or unintentionally. It begs the question to be explored through text, "what was the structure, function, historical surround of same-sex love in and for Homer or Plato or Sappho?" It searches for the commentary made through "discourses of modern homo/heterosexuality - in medicine and psychiatry, in language and law, in in the crisis of female status, in the career of imperialism." 

That last quote by Sedgwick is a good one, as it notes the existence of queer theory within modern life, and not just literature. Queer theory explores human conditions, and thus dismissals of authors who are "certified or rumored to have had an attachment to someone of the other sex" should not be accepted as the definitive disclaimer of the theory.

Shakespeare is reported to have been very promiscuous with women, but opposers of queer theory must be dismissing all the sonnets addressed to the Fair Youth (A man in hue, all hues in his controlling/Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth - hubba hubba). 

Opposers note that there is no canonicity or discussion of feminine Shakespeare because there is no "Female Shakespeare." But the existence of femininity in Shakespeare is not dependent on there being a female version of Shakespeare, as there is already commentary of this within Shakespeare's plays. The doodle above displays a feminine Shakespeare, titled "The Female Shakespeare," a Shakespeare who dons his apparel with pride once in a while because he likes to feel pretty. He steps into his ruby red slippers and speaks on love and passion and gender and sex as if a man were beating his chest, and still there would be no man beating his chest if it were not for the resultant thought that perhaps this dominant reading is really suggesting that these are not the actions of femininity, that fairness and beauty and mildness (sonnet 18) are, but then there would be no "masculine" if there were no "feminine" and there would be no human condition if there were no differences between individuals.

"The relation of gay studies to debates on the literary canon is, and has best be tortuous." I focus on Sedgwick [because Butler is a complex carb is her simplest form] because her angle seems to be to insert new readings of existing text and to educate theorists on the possibility of a binary being more than just unintentional. How far does the centrality stretch of "gay-centered" inquiry? What can it teach us about literature, but also innovation, struggle, gender roles, double-standards, and commentaries on society? How can we better understand ourselves and our literature through our binaries?

Most importantly, do people who learn big words forget how to use small words and short sentences? (I'm looking at you, Judith.)

1 comment:

  1. I actually think you are way more poststructural than Sedgwick actually gets in this essay, but I love it. When she says there already is a gay Shakespeare or Proust, she actually means that these guys were likely gay or bi, and we need to stop erasing that fact when we study their lives and read their texts. But you extend this in a more Butlerian sense, looking at how any heteronormative text is going to be relying on queerness to assert its normative sexuality, and that is cool! So anyway, your reading of Sedgwick has a couple of moments where it might be somewhat out of sync with her meaning, but in general, I just love how you are thinking about queer theory and poststructuralism here.