University of Pennsylvania Press

New Cultural Studies

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The Orient of the Boulevards

Exoticism, Empire, and Nineteenth-Century French Theater

By Angela C. Pao

The author draws upon the methodologies of theater and cultural studies to examine the construction of "the Orient" on the Parisian stage during the nineteenth century, the period of France's first imperial expansions into North Africa and the Middle East.

As an increasingly large segment of the French population moved into contact with the Middle East and North Africa as soldiers, colonial administrators, settlers, and merchants, the balance between fantasy and immediacy in Orientalized drama shifted. The domestic melodrama gave way to elaborately staged military spectacles based on current events. Performed before working-class audiences, many of whose members were to be called up for military service, these spectacles bore explicit political and imperial agendas.

Mining rich archival resources of play-texts, censorship reports, critical reviews, and contemporary writings on performance practice, this book reveals the complex processes by which the institutions of popular culture helped shape nineteenth-century notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality.

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Perennial Decay

On the Aesthetics and Politics of Decadance

Edited by Liz Constable, Dennis Denisoff, and Matthew Potolsky

When Oscar Wilde was convicted of gross indecency in 1895, a reporter for the National Observer wrote that there was "not a man or a woman in the English-speaking world possessed of the treasure of a wholesome mind who is not under a deep debt of gratitude to the marquis of Queensberry for destroying the high Priest of the Decadents." But reports of the death of decadence were greatly exaggerated, and today, more than one hundred years after the famous trial and at the beginning of a new millennium, the phenomenon of decadence continues to be a significant cultural force.

Indeed, "decadence" in the nineteenth century, and in our own period, has been a concept whose analysis yields a broad set of associations. In Perennial Decay, Emily Apter, Charles Bernheimer, Sylvia Molloy, Michael Riffaterre, Barbara Spackman, Marc Weiner, and others extend the critical field of decadence beyond the traditional themes of morbidity, the cult of artificiality, exoticism, and sexual nonconformism. They approach the question of decadence afresh, reevaluating the continuing importance of late nineteenth-century decadence for contemporary literary and cultural studies.

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Ravishing Maidens

Writing Rape in Medieval French Literature and Law

By Kathryn Gravdal

In this study of sexual violence and rape in French medieval literature and law, Kathryn Gravdal examines an array of famous works never before analyzed in connection with sexual violence. Gravdal demonstrates the variety of techniques through which medieval discourse made rape acceptable: sometimes through humor and aestheticization, sometimes through the use of social and political themes, but especially through the romanticism of rape scenes.

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Renaissance Culture and the Everyday

Edited by Patricia Fumerton and Simon Hunt

It was not unusual during the Renaissance for cooks to torture animals before slaughtering them in order to render the meat more tender, for women to use needlepoint to cover up their misconduct and prove their obedience, and for people to cover the walls of their own homes with graffiti.

Items and activities as familiar as mirrors, books, horses, everyday speech, money, laundry baskets, graffiti, embroidery, and food preparation look decidedly less familiar when seen through the eyes of Renaissance men and women. In Renaissance Culture and the Everyday, such scholars as Judith Brown, Frances Dolan, Richard Helgerson, Debora Shuger, Don Wayne, and Stephanie Jed illuminate the sometimes surprising issues at stake in just such common matters of everyday life during the Renaissance in England and on the Continent.

Organized around the categories of materiality, women, and transgression—and constantly crossing these categories—the book promotes and challenges readers' thinking of the everyday. While not ignoring the aristocratic, it foregrounds the common person, the marginal, and the domestic even as it presents the unusual details of their existence. What results is an expansive, variegated, and sometimes even contradictory vision in which the strange becomes not alien but a defining mark of everyday life.

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Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and the Making of Theatrical Value

By Paul Yachnin

To many of their contemporaries, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton were little more than artisanal craftsmen, "stage-wrights" who wrote plays for money, to be performed in common playhouses and in a manner often antithetical to what Jonson himself viewed as the higher calling of poetry. In response to the conflicting pressures of censorship and commercialism, Paul Yachnin contends, players and dramatists alike had promulgated the idea of drama's irrelevance, creating a recreational theater that failed to influence its audience in any purposeful way.

In Stage-Wrights Yachnin shows how Shakespeare, Jonson, and Middleton struggled to reclaim not only the importance of their art, but their own social legitimacy as well as through the reshaping of the commercial theater. His bold readings of their works unveil the strategies by which they sought power from their privileged but powerless position on the margins. Adopting a hermeneutical approach, he explores a wide range of historical evidence to describe how English Renaissance drama depicted the world in ways refracted by the interests of the playing companies; throughout, he challenges recent historicist models that have overrated the importance of dramatic productions to society and its institutions of authority.

Paul Yachnin offers a new way of understanding dramatic texts in relation to their social history. In showing how the efforts of three playwrights helped shape the area of discourse we now call "the literary," Stage-Wrights represents both a major rereading of the place of theater in Shakespeare's London and an important clarification of the social context of contemporary criticism.

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Warm Brothers

Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe

By Robert Tobin

In eighteenth-century Germany, the aesthetician Friedrich Wilhelm Basileus Ramdohr could write of the phenomenon of men who evoke sexual desire in other men; Johann Joachim Winckelmann could place admiration of male beauty at the center of his art criticism; and admirers and detractors alike of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, felt constrained to comment upon the ruler's obvious preference for men over women. In German cities of the period, men identified as "warm brothers" wore broad pigtails powdered in the back, and developed a particular discourse of friendship, classicism, Orientalism, and fashion.

There is much evidence, Robert D. Tobin contends, that something was happening in the semantic field around male-male desire in late eighteenth-century Germany, and that certain signs were coalescing around "a queer proto-identity." Today, we might consider a canonical author of the period such as Jean Paul a homosexual; we would probably not so identify Goethe or Schiller. But for Tobin, queer subtexts are found in the writings of all three and many others.

Warm Brothers analyzes classical German writers through the lens of queer theory. Beginning with sodomitical subcultures in eighteenth-century Germany, it examines the traces of an emergent homosexuality and shows the importance of the eighteenth century for the nineteenth-century sexologists who were to provide the framework for modern conceptualizations of sexuality. One of the first books to document male-male desire in eighteenth-century German literature and culture, Warm Brothers offers a much-needed reappraisal of the classical canon and the history of sexuality.

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