Silence, speech and gender in early modern drama : a presentist, Palestinian perspective

Hamamra, Belal and Findlay, Alison (2016) Silence, speech and gender in early modern drama : a presentist, Palestinian perspective. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Silence, Speech and Gender in Early Modern Drama: A Presentist, Palestinian Perspective considers the dialogue between male-and female-authored dramas in early modern England and the competing ideologies on speech, silence, hearing and gender they enact. Following the methodology of presentism, the thesis deploys some examples of gendering speech and silence in contemporary Palestine to illuminate aspects of early modern tragedies. This approach is a step towards reading the early modern tragedies as texts which offer a model for contemporary Palestinian teachers and readers to challenge traditional ideas about gender, speech and silence. From a feminist standpoint,the thesis argues that Shakespeare‘s Titus Andronicus and Othello, Webster‘s The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi and Middleton‘s The Changeling and Women Beware Women deconstruct the binary opposites of speech and silence and highlight that gender difference is a self-defeating ideology. Following the critical line of new historicism, this thesis draws on the different cultural and historical contexts of both early modern England and contemporary Palestine. It interrogates new historicists‘ conception of the comprehensive operation of dominant ideology and their emphasis on containment following subversion. While Elizabethan tragedies as revealed in Titus Andronicus end in containing female figures‘ subversive voices and asserting male figures‘ authority, the thesis contends that Jacobean tragedies by Webster and Middleton place female figures centre stage to interrogate and subvert male figures‘ corrupt voices. I use the gendering of nationalism as feminine in Palestinian nationalist discourse in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict; honour killing; the Palestinian literary classic romance of Antar; the Palestinian practices of enforced marriage, rape and the circumscription of Palestinian women‘s voices by the discriminatory laws and legal systems as intertexts to analyse speech, silence and gender in the male-authored tragedies chosen here. This thesis proposes that male authority is unsettled rather than reaffirmed by the patriarchal construction of the binary opposites of speech and silence and by male deafness to female figures‘ voices. The thesis argues that the boy actors impersonating female characters‘ speeches and silences in male-authored tragedies open up a space for female characters to participate in the tragic events and question the masculine construction of the binary opposites of speech and silence. In addition, the final chapter of the thesis considers the different gendering of discourse in female-authored tragedies where there is a continuity between author, character, and actor in private performances. The thesis argues the Lady Jane Lumley‘s Iphigenia (1555), Mary Sidney‘s The Tragedy of Antonie (1595), and Elizabeth Cary‘s The Tragedy of Mariam (1613) reveal women‘s agency as writers and speakers in cultures antagonistic to female speech and writing. Fadwa Tuqan‘s Autobiography, A Mountainous Journey (1978) and the discourse of female martyrdom in contemporary Palestine are used as presentist intertexts that illuminate instances of transgressive public expression. Since the female texts under discussion are not parts of An-Najah University‘s curriculum, the thesis takes a step towards opening up discussion of female-authored texts and spotlighting women‘s voices.

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Thesis (PhD)
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21 Sep 2016 08:30
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:36