"Renaissance Que(e)ries: Un-disciplining the early modern body"

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NeMLA 2013
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In the recent anthology Shakesqueer (2011), Madhavi Menon claims, "Reading Shakespeare as queer rather than queered challenges the rule of chronology and identity that has thus far kept his poems and plays from exercising queer agency." This panel takes up Menon's urge to reconsider the relationship between queer theory and the early modern, welcoming papers that read early modern literature, both Shakespeare and beyond, as a body of queer texts, rather than historically distant productions at which we might look through a contemporary queer lens. Queer theory registers the trace, the materiality, the excess that eludes and confounds signification, and recognizing the queer within the Renaissance allows for gaps, illegibility, and unknowability to become sites of potentially frustrating study, defying the ways in which we currently write literary history. Additionally, this panel resists the hypostatization of the queer, a trend that is emerging in queer studies and identity politics, which circumscribes the queer body as a post-nineteenth-century construct. This panel is particularly interested in readings that rethink what is queer about, on, and in (material and textual) Renaissance bodies. Possible questions for further inquiry include: How is the body configured and disrupted in Renaissance texts? Why is the Renaissance body particularly apt for queer studies? By reading the Renaissance body as itself capable of engaging queerness, how can we re-articulate understandings of gender and sexuality? Recognizing Zizek's claim that "Richard II proves beyond any doubt that Shakespeare had read Lacan" is a statement on Renaissance texts' capacity to be theoretical rather than historically reflexive, this panel pushes early modern critics to allow the texts to speak for themselves and to articulate their own queerness within the Renaissance. Please submit 300-word abstracts to James Mulder at jamie.mulder@tufts.edu by September 15.