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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Elizabethan Feminism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0756  Tuesday, 27 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Apr 1999 10:17:19 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Apr 1999 04:28:02 +1000
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[3]     From:   Jo Anne Shea <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Apr 1999 17:15:03 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0745 Re: Elizabethan Feminism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Apr 1999 10:17:19 +1000
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

I am resisting the urge to deconstruct Bill Allard's posting, contenting
myself to comment that some of his word choices and overall tone may
reflect the kind of attitude which spurs females to make such extreme
statements as he attributes to his classmates.

Beyond that, I would urge him not to write off feminist criticism solely
on the basis of what his fellow students said about Hermia and Helena.
It sounds like they were being a bit simplistic, just as Bill is being a
bit simplistic in implying that their views reflect some kind of
monolithic feminist critical approach.

>Is there any male Shakesperian character who has any redeeming
>qualities in his relationship with women?

The key words here are "any redeeming qualities."  If we set out to find
a male character who would fit well into late 20th century models of
virtuous masculinity, probably not.  But if we look for characters who
display thoughtfulness toward women, who seem to realize that women are
human beings, too..."redeeming qualities" if you will...then there may
be a few.

The first ones that spring to my mind are Benedick and Don Pedro in
"Much Ado."  Benedick engages in much macho posturing, of course, but he
clearly values Beatrice for her intelligence as much or more than for
her "commodity value."  Don Pedro, too, appreciates Beatrice: his
tentative approach to her indicates that he (if not she) is at least
willing to contemplate defying class boundaries in return for an
alliance with a truly outstanding woman.

Another rather paradoxical possibility: Petruchio.  A thread this past
year ("Shrews Misbehaving," I believe) had thoughtful postings from a
number of members who argued persuasively that Petruchio's interactions
with Kate reflected more respect and appreciation for her individuality
than is usually perceived.

Yet another: the "poet" persona of the late Sonnets.  Granted, the
persona swings from revulsion to attraction in his stated relationship
to the character referred to as the "dark lady."  Yet, in the more
positive sonnets, we see traces of a male who sees a female not as an
idealized Petrarchan figure, but as a flawed, flesh-and-blood,
all-too-human human.  Their relationship is complex, stressful, yet
remarkably mature-to my mind at least.  Reread "My mistress' eyes are
nothing like the sun" and see what you think.

Karen Peterson-Kranz
University of Guam

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Apr 1999 04:28:02 +1000
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Fw: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

>Is there any male Shakesperian character who has any redeeming
>qualities in his relationship with women?

In addition to the characters suggested by list members, I'd propose the
"poet" persona of the late Sonnets.  Granted, the persona swings from
revulsion to attraction in his stated relationship to the character
referred to as the "dark lady."  Yet, in the more positive sonnets, we
see traces of a male who sees a female not as an idealized Petrarchan
figure, but as a flawed, flesh-and-blood, all-too-human human.  Their
relationship is complex, stressful, yet remarkably mature-to my mind at
least.  Reread "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" and see what
you think.

Karen Peterson-Kranz
University of Guam

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jo Anne Shea <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Apr 1999 17:15:03 -0500
Subject: 10.0745 Re: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0745 Re: Elizabethan Feminism

Bill Allard writes,

>>I am a graduate student in California and I need your input. I am
>>enrolled in an Elizabethan literature class where we have just finished
>>MND. Two female students gave presentations on how Hermia and Helena are
>>subjected and commodified by men. A few quotes of the ladies and their
>>bibliographic sources: "Patriarchal domination," "putting men one up
>>again," and "reminding us that the men haven't changed." My question is
>>this: Is there any male Shakesperian character who has any redeeming
>>qualities in his relationship with women? I realize this may open a can
>>of worms, but I do cling to what seems like a quickly fading notion that
>>academia is a marketplace of ideas where opposing views may be
>>expressed.

Perhaps the presentation you witnessed was an example of bad feminist
criticism; it is very hard to judge given your brief summary and random
quotations, and any literary theory can be made to seem pretty silly by
pulling a few catch phrases out of context. That the presentation lead
you to wonder if any "male Shakespearean characters" (not sure what you
mean by "Shakespearean") has "any redeeming qualities in his
relationship with women" leads me to believe that somewhere  along the
line theoretically sophisticated notions such as "commodification" and
"patriarchy" are getting drastically oversimplified. These aren't
synonyms for "bad," or "things evil men do;" they're technical terms
that describe very complex cultural interactions. Most feminist
critiques think "patriarchal domination" is something perpetuated by and
ultimately destructive to men and women. Similarly, commodification
involves the exchange and circulation of value. Even "subjection" as a
technical term does not simply imply one group "taking advantage" of
another. (see Goran Therborn The Ideology of Power and the Power of
Ideology)

Jo Anne Shea
Dept of English and Philosophy
Stephen F. Austin State University
 

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