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Title: Shakespearean arrivals : the irruption of character
Author: Luke, Nicholas Ian
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 4386
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis re-examines Shakespeare’s creation of tragic character through the concept of ‘arrivals’. What arrives is not an ‘individual’ but what I call a ‘subject’, which is a diffused dramatic process of arriving, rather than a self-contained entity that arrives in a final form. Not all characters are ‘subjects’. A subject only arrives through dramatic ‘events’ that rupture the existing structures of the play-world and the play-text. The generators of these irruptions are found equally in the happenings of plot and in changes of poetic intensity and form. The ‘subject’ is thus a supra- individual irruption that configures new forms of language, structure, and action. Accordingly, I explain why scrupulous historicism’s need for nameable continuums is incommensurate to the irruptive quality of Shakespearean character. The concepts of ‘process’, ‘subject’ and ‘event’ are informed by a variety of thinkers, most notably the contemporary French philosopher Alain Badiou. Badiou develops an ‘evental’ model of subjectivity in which the subject emerges in fidelity to a ‘truth- event’, which breaks into a situation from its ‘void’. Also important is the process- orientated philosophy of Bergson and Whitehead, which stresses that an entity is not a stable substance but a process of becoming. The underlying connection between the philosophers I embrace – also including the likes of Žižek, Kierkegaard, Latour, Benjamin, and Christian thinkers such as Saint Paul and Luther – is that they establish a creative alternative to the deadlock between treating the subject as either a stable substance (humanism) or a decentred product of its place in the world (postmodernism). The subject is not a pre-existing entity but something that comes to be. It is not reducible to its cultural and linguistic circumstances but is precisely what exceeds those circumstances. Such an excessive creativity is what gives rise to Shakespeare’s subjects and, I argue, underpins the continuing force of his drama. But it also produces profound dangers. In Shakespeare, ‘events’ consistently expose subjects to uncertainty, catastrophe, and horror. And these dangers imperil both the subject and the relationship between Shakespeare and the affirmative philosophy of the event.
Supervisor: Palfrey, Simon Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Early modern English literature (1550 ? 1780) ; Shakespeare ; Shakespeare ; character ; criticism ; arrival ; event ; void ; subject ; rupture ; tragedy ; drama ; dramaturgy ; Romeo and Juliet ; Othello ; Hamlet ; Macbeth ; King Lear ; Badiou ; Zizek ; Whitehead ; Bergson ; Kierkegaard ; AC Bradley ; Cavell