Wasteful Bodies: Queer Embodiment and Erotics in Early Modern Literature
Abstract: Wasteful Bodies: Queer Embodiment and Erotics in Early Modern Literature is an investigation of the bodily orifice in English drama and poetry of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Reading texts from Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, and Middleton, this project traces a queer discourse of the orifice in literary and dramatic representations of sex in the early modern period. P... read morerevailing queer and feminist accounts of embodiment, erotics, and sexual difference in early modern studies continue to be constrained by what I characterize as a penetrative discourse of sex. In reconsidering how sex and the orifice function as potent sites of social transgression and sexual nonnormativity, I draw on affect and queer theory to challenge critical assumptions about how bodily borders and sexual acts are figured in early modern literature. The first half of Wasteful Bodies revisits the tragic endings of two prominent characters in the queer canon, Shakespeare's Adonis and Marlowe's Edward II. In the first chapter, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Adonis?," I argue that critical interpretations of Adonis as an aestheticized, unreproductive proto-homosexual have risked oversexing Adonis's body, relying on presumptive binaries of biological sex and gender. My second chapter, "Wasting Time in Edward II," takes up the question of social and sexual disorder in Marlowe's Edward II to reconsider what the queer figure of Edward II discloses about the figural language of sodomy and its association with death, punishment, and waste. Through the lens of Alenka Zupančič's theory of the comic, the latter half of Wasteful Bodies brings together two dramatic texts of the early seventeenth century that respond to Jacobean cultural anxieties regarding succession and kinship in a comic or satiric register. The third chapter argues that the play's orificial refusals, failures, and stoppages remain under-studied, as scholarship on Jonson's use of theatrical space and his fixation on waste management remains largely focused on the orifices' excretory functions. In my final chapter, "Seeing Sex in The Revenger's Tragedy," I consider the persistent vitality of the dead bodies of The Revenger's Tragedy alongside critical perspectives on early modern anxieties about sexual continence, bodily closure, reproduction, and succession.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisors: Lee Edelman, and Judith Haber.
Committee: Kevin Dunn, and Madhavi Menon.
Keyword: English literature.read less