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Something, nothing : space, substance, and sexual identity in Shakespeare

Splitter, Randolph (1981) Something, nothing : space, substance, and sexual identity in Shakespeare. Humanities Working Paper, 58. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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This paper argues that early, "preoedipal" anxieties about dependency, autonomy, the boundaries of the self, the dangerous interpenetration of inner and outer worlds--the outer world contaminating the inner self, the self afraid of losing the precious "substance" that keeps it alive--play a significant role in Shakespeare's plays, specifically Hamlet and King Lear. It argues further that childhood dependence on a mother influences later feelings about the opposite sex and sexual conflicts revive early anxieties about autonomy and independence, so that the attempt to establish a proper balance between inner and outer worlds is inextricably tied (in the plays) to conceptions of sexual identity. In broader social terms, these plays reflect the problem of being (1) a separate, self-conscious individual at a time when the old values of an ordered, hierar"chical society were giving way to a new, middle-class, Protestant ethic of "individualism" and (2) a man at a time when sexual roles were becoming polarized in new ways. As the plays themselves imply--and as the paper tries to show--we can't understand the dilemmas of modern "individualism" without understanding the sexual parameters (learned in early childhood, reinforced by social experience) in terms of which these dilenrnas are lived out.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:58
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090812-153756482
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Official Citation:Splitter, Randolph. Something, nothing: space, substance, and sexual identity in Shakespeare. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1981. Humanities Working Paper, No. 58.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14997
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:17 Aug 2009 17:33
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:54

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