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Title: Shakespearean maternities : crises of conception in early modern England
Author: Laoutaris, Christakis
ISNI:       0000 0000 5425 4015
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2005
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The thesis explores ways in which Shakespeare's plays deal with the tragic intervention of such crises as disease, monstrosity, bewitchment, and death, in the biological and ritual functions of maternity. Shakespeare dramatises the way in which these crises have an epistemological impact that extends beyond the limited confines of the home and the family, having the potential to disrupt those bodies of knowledge which ratify patriarchal control over the processes of chUdbirth and maternal nurture. Each chapter is focussed on a body of knowledge: anatomy natural history demonology heraldry. In the first chapter I demonstrate how Shakespeare's Hamlet provides a testing-ground for the ideological underpinnings of anatomy. Hamlet's appropriation of the dissecting discourse of satire ultimately serves to undermine the anatomical regime's power over a diseased maternal body which, it claimed, was the locus of sin and human depravity. The second chapter offers explorations of ways in which Shakespeare's Tempest replicates the homological dialectic between the reproductive anatomy and the natural world which made the female body amenable to the newly-emerging natural historical project. However, it is suggested that Shakespeare stages the specific crisis of the monstrous birth in order to destabilise the categories of human and monster upon which this colonising enterprise is based. Chapter three contains a detailed re-reading of Macbeth, in which the maternal body becomes, through the crisis of alleged bewitchment, the vehicle of scepticism, the very fountainhead of equivocation which challenges the intellectual scaffolding of demonology. The final chapter offers an examination of the historical fracturing of the discipline of heraldry which is then discussed with reference to Antony and Cleopatra. The Egyptian Queen is seen to embody a new form of maternal commemoration that resists the primacy of those masculine codes of memory which seek to turn the female body into a mere conduit for patrilineage. The thesis argues that Shakespeare was aware that these bodies of knowledge shared a specific epistemological perspective an early form of biological detemiinism through which maternal crises were re-conceived as proceeding not from the machinations of a divine will imposing itself directly on creation, but from the inherent properties of a largely autonomous nature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available