The construction of the category of 'woman' in Shakespeare's King Lear and Othello and Webster's The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil
This thesis addresses fissures in language, ideology and
subjectivity as they are manifested in the dramatic construction
of the category of 'Woman' in four major Jacobean texts.
The first section of my project deals with the way 1n
which the opposition of male and female underlies the perception
and construction of order at every level. In a scheme of thought
characterized by the use of antithesis and analogy, the opposition
of gender proves to be one of the most richly extensible.
All analogies are connected by the great chain of thought
which consti tutes the Great Chain of Being. Once any element
1n this scheme is undermined there is the danger (or for my
purposes, the analytic advantage) that there will be something
like a domino ef:ect. That is to say, relations of power become
more visible at the problematic i~tersec~ion of gender.
In section two, I propose a construction of tragedy rela~2d
to female transgression as an alternative to the '.va'! in which
feminist critics tend to equate gender with genre, dubbing
comedy 'feminine' and tragedy 'masculine.' My construc~ion
also counters the ~raditional notion of tragedy as a ~ixed,
pr i vi leged genre category. I f',lrther examine the construc~ion
of woman in tragedy through absence, silence and utterance.
The final sect.ion explores the nature of the cont':'nuous
process of gender di£ £erentiation which serves to produce and
maintain gender categories. Gender differentiation occurs
most manifestly in misogynistic discourse which I address using
Lacan I s theory of the construction of the human subject. The
production of misogyny in its various forms constructs the
feminine as 'Other,' and 1n this its function can be seen as
one of policing the boundaries 'of gender ideologies. Here
I also treat the construction of masculinity against femininity
since the production of the former is dependent upon the latter.
The preceding analyses serve to break down unities of
gender by recognizlng that discourse simultaneously constructs
and disperses concepts of gender. Gender is thus crucial '=.0
the cuI tural dynamic of Renaissance drama, and in this we find
authority for new direc~ions in feminis~ literary studies.