Shakespeare and Modeling Political Subjectivity

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This dissertation examines the role of aesthetic activity in the pursuit of political agency in readings of several of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet (1600), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), The Tempest (1610), the history plays of the second tetralogy (1595-9), Julius Caesar (1599), and Coriolanus (1605). I demonstrate how Shakespeare models political subjectivity—the capacity for individuals to participate meaningfully in the political realm—as necessitating active aesthetic agency. This aesthetic agency entails the fashioning of artistically conceived public personae that potential political subjects enact in the public sphere and the critical engagement of the aesthetic and political discourses of the subjects’ ... continued below

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Worlow, Christian D. December 2013.

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  • Worlow, Christian D.

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Description

This dissertation examines the role of aesthetic activity in the pursuit of political agency in readings of several of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet (1600), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), The Tempest (1610), the history plays of the second tetralogy (1595-9), Julius Caesar (1599), and Coriolanus (1605). I demonstrate how Shakespeare models political subjectivity—the capacity for individuals to participate meaningfully in the political realm—as necessitating active aesthetic agency. This aesthetic agency entails the fashioning of artistically conceived public personae that potential political subjects enact in the public sphere and the critical engagement of the aesthetic and political discourses of the subjects’ culture in a self-reflective and appropriative manner. Furthermore, these subjects should be wary auditors of the texts and personae they encounter within the public sphere in order to avoid internalizing constraining ideologies that reify their identities into forms less conducive to the pursuit of liberty and social mobility. Early modern audiences could discover several models for doing so in Shakespeare’s works. For example, Hamlet posits a model of Machiavellian theatricality that masks the Prince's interiority as he resists the biopolitical force and disciplinary discourses of Claudius's Denmark. Julius Caesar and Coriolanus advance a model of citizenship through the plays’ nameless plebeians in which rhetoric offers the means to participate in Rome’s political culture, and Shakespeare’s England for audiences, while authorities manipulate citizen opinion by molding the popularity of public figures. Public, artistic ability affords potential political subjects ways of not only framing their participation in their culture but also ways of conceiving of their identities and relationships to society that may defy normative notions of membership in the community.

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UNT Theses and Dissertations

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  • December 2013

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 11, 2014, 7:32 a.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 12:29 p.m.

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Worlow, Christian D. Shakespeare and Modeling Political Subjectivity, dissertation, December 2013; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc407853/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .