Enterline, Shakespeare, Pedagogy, Rhetoric, Passions, Body, Gender, Queer Theory
How do early pedagogical practices become precipitates—shards of early impressions—that as fragmentary forms continue to catalyze imagination and being? Answering this question is the archaeological endeavor that motivates Lynn Enterline’s brilliant new book on the Renaissance schoolroom training that shaped Shakespeare and his contemporaries. She argues that, for some early modern writers, the youthful, formative experience of the English grammar school left an indelible imprint that marks the literature and theater of the period. My choice of the word archaeological to describe her method is meant to invoke Freud, for Enterline could not have approached her task with such results had she not joined her impressive archival and hermeneutic skills with a deft and sophisticated grasp of psychoanalytic principles. In a sense, her study is to early modern culture what childhood is to the individual subject; she investigates the cultural origins of the English (male) psyche through her examination of grammar school culture. Her analysis performs psychoanalytic work by attending to originary, sometimes traumatic, experiences that lie at the psychic root of the Renaissance human subject. She traverses terrain well-mapped by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Jean Laplanche, since the chronological moment of childhood she probes necessarily implicates language acquisition, early sexual fantasy and experience, the movement from a maternal or imaginary realm into a paternal or symbolic order, and perhaps most evocatively, rhetorical and pedagogical encounters with classical texts that were saturated by an intense physical experience of the passions.
The book is organized into five chapters, each of which investigates different configurations of rhetoric and the passions. The first two chapters lay the groundwork for Enterline’s arguments by exploring a series of pedagogical texts [End Page 166] that range through early modern educational treatises (Erasmus, Ascham, Vives), schoolroom exercises that formed the humanist curriculum, popular plays and skits representing pedagogical practices, accounts of daily schoolroom life, and rhetorical and grammatical manuals (Lily’s Grammar, Cicero, Quintilian, Aphthonius’s Progymnasmata), both classical and early modern. As a learned classicist, Enterline’s ability to navigate the intricacies of the Renaissance double translation system allows her to recognize the jokes and subtleties at work. As the author of two influential books on poetics and the body, she illuminates here in often surprising ways the insistent presence of the somatic in these pedagogical practices. The effect of her analysis is to defamiliarize, to craft highly original readings of well-known plays or poems. She begins, for instance, by excavating the layers of Peter Quince’s exclamation to Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Thou art translated!” (3.1.119), in order to reveal not only the passage from human to animal, from Mechanical to aristocrat, from emotion to fleshly embodiment of affect, from one register of perception to another, but also the literal foundation that many members of Shakespeare’s audience would have appreciated with visceral pleasure: the sixteenth-century practice of translating a Latin text to English and back again. Her evocation of these scenes of instruction informs her treatments of the Shakespearean texts or cluster of texts that she makes central to the final three chapters: Venus and Adonis, Hamlet, The Winter’s Tale, The Rape of Lucrece, and The Taming of the Shrew. Her arguments include by implication many works that she does not cite or has time to mention only briefly (The Tempest and Titus Andronicus are especially notable in this category); it is the mark of a groundbreaking book that it reaches out to enfold authors (Spenser and Milton, among others) outside its immediate purview, changing in important ways the landscape of interpretation. This book does just that by continually revealing the institutional forces that “trained up” boys to become masculine subjects and gentlemen.
This is the most historically anchored of Enterline’s books. Whereas The Tears of Narcissus: Melancholia and Masculinity in Early Modern Writing and The Rhetoric of the Body from Ovid to Shakespeare both took Ovid, the body, rhetoric, and psychoanalytic theory as tools and objects...