Shakespeare and Literary Theory

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How is it that the British literary critic Terry Eagleton can say that 'it is difficult to read Shakespeare without feeling that he was almost certainly familiar with the writings of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Wittgenstein and Derrida', or that the Slovenian psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Zizek can observe that 'Shakespeare without doubt had read Lacan'? Shakespeare and Literary Theory argues that literary theory is less an external set of ideas anachronistically imposed on Shakespeare's texts than a mode - or several modes - of critical reflection inspired by, and emerging from, his writing. These modes together constitute what we might call 'Shakespearian theory': theory that is not just about Shakespeare but also derives its energy from Shakespeare. To name just a few examples: Karl Marx was an avid reader of Shakespeare and used Timon of Athens to illustrate aspects of his economic theory; psychoanalytic theorists from Sigmund Freud to Jacques Lacan have explained some of their most axiomatic positions with reference to Hamlet; Michel Foucault's early theoretical writing on dreams and madness returns repeatedly to Macbeth; Jacques Derrida's deconstructive philosophy is articulated in dialogue with Shakespeare's plays, including Romeo and Juliet; French feminism's best-known essay is Helene Cixous's meditation on Antony and Cleopatra; certain strands of queer theory derive their impetus from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's reading of the Sonnets; Gilles Deleuze alights on Richard III as an exemplary instance of his theory of the war machine; and postcolonial theory owes a large debt to Aime Cesaire's revision of The Tempest. By reading what theoretical movements from formalism and structuralism to cultural materialism and actor-network theory have had to say about and in concert with Shakespeare, we can begin to get a sense of how much the DNA of contemporary literary theory contains a startling abundance of chromosomes - concepts, preoccupations, ways of using language - that are of Shakespearian provenance.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Should be widely used." --Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900

"Harris provides lucid and engaging summaries of the theoretical perspectives and the ways they have entered into conversation with Shakespeare. Shakespeare and Literary Theory is perfectly suited for anyone looking for an accessible introduction to contemporary literary theory that also provides illuminating examples of the application of those theories."--Sixteenth Century Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199573387
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/10/2010
  • Series: Oxford Shakespeare Topics Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 826,594
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at George Washington University. He is the author of Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic: Discourses of Social Pathology in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1998), Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism and Disease in Shakespeare's England (U Penn P, 2004), and Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare (U Penn P 2008). He is also the editor of Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama (co-edited with Natasha Koarda, Cambridge 2002) and Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday (New Mermaids, 2008). Professor Harris serves as associate editor of Shakespeare Quarterly.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Shakespeare and Theory 1

I Language and Structure

1 Formalism 13

2 Structuralism Mikhail Bakhtin Bakhtin, Mikhail 26

3 Deconstruction RenĂ£ Girard Girard, RenĂ£ 42

4 Rhizome and Actor-Network Theory Jacques Derrida Derrida, Jacques 58

II Desire and Identity Bruno Latour Latour, Bruno

5 Freudian Psychoanalysis Bruno Latour Latour, Bruno 75

6 Lacanian Psychoanalysis Melanie Klein Klein, Melanie 91

7 Feminism Slavoj Zizek Zizek, Slavoj 507

8 Queer Theory Elaine Showalter Showalter, Elaine 123

III Culture and Society Lee Edelman Edelman, Lee

9 Marxism Lee Edelman Edelman, Lee 143

10 Poststructuralist Marxisms Bertolt Brecht Brecht, Bertolt 158

11 New Historicism and Cultural Materialism Fredric Jameson Jameson, Fredric 175

12 Postcolonial Theory Alan Sinfield Sinfield, Alan 192

Further Reading Sara Ahmed Ahmed, Sara 209

Works Cited Sara Ahmed Ahmed, Sara 213

Index Sara Ahmed Ahmed, Sara 219

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