- Transversal Enterprises in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries: Fugitive Explorations
Transversal Enterprisesis Bryan Reynolds's latest elaboration of transversal poetics in relation to early modern dramatic texts. As in some of Reynolds's previous work, this book is a collaborative effort, comprising ten original essays, each cowritten by Reynolds and another scholar.
Reynolds's important work distinguishes itself from nearly all recent early modern criticism in its ever-expanding taxonomy and coinage of theoretical terms. Building on the work of Deleuze and Guattari and of Laclau and Mouffe, Reynolds defines "transversal power" as "any physical or ideational force that inspires deviations from the established norms for an individual or group," and "transversal movement" as the "conscious or subconscious breach and transcendence of one's subjective territory into a non-delineated alternative(s)" (126). The corresponding area over which transversal movements occur is referred to as "transversal territory, a multi-dimensional space encompassing . . . the nonsubjectified regions of all individuals' conceptual and emotional range" (126).
En route to occupying such transversal territory, a given subject often enters into "subjunctive space"—"an inbetween space operative between subjective and transversal territories in which the subject necessarily retains agency and can self-consciously hypothesize scenarios and experiences" (40). Not all such engagements are entirely self-activating, however, since some subjects experience "becomings-other," while others experience "comings-to-be": "Becomings-other are active engagements, usually self-inaugurated and pursued intentionally, whereas comings-to-be . . . are generated by the energies, ideas, people, societies, and so on to which the subject aspires" (66). There are a number of other related terms and concepts in the book, at least fifteen other coinages, on my rough count, including "sociopolitical conductors" (1), "articulatory space" (67), "projective transversality" [End Page 257](64), "post-theater" (13), "witness-function" (177), "principle of citationality" (245), "pressurized belongings" (66), "Shakespace" (7), and "R&Jspace" (7).
Reynolds does not establish all of these definitions in an introductory chapter but rather reintroduces them throughout the book. In one sense, this is helpful, since theoretical terms are presented in relation to particular dramatic texts and accompanying interpretations. Yet Transversal Enterprisesoften reads like a not-so-subliminal advertising campaign, in which the reader is reminded of Reynolds's and his collaborators' innovative nomenclature—as if, once adrift in Reynoldspace (my own coinage), the reader is strong-armed into accepting this theoretical apparatus. That said, the rich interpretations that Reynolds and his collaborators offer do exemplify transversal poetics nicely and suggest novel interpretive possibilities that outworn new historicist models of subversion and containment cannot accommodate.
In the book's first interpretive example, Reynolds and Janna Segal offer a critical review of Middleton and Dekker's Roaring Girl, in which they assess the critical attention given to "Mary/Mollspace" during the past twenty years. Mary/Mollspace is a play on "'Shakespace,' which accounts for the 'diverse and numerous' past, present, and future workings of Shakespeare through 'countless commercial, political, social, and cultural spaces'" (38). Since the 1980s, criticism about Mary/Moll—who has been interpreted, for example, as an exemplar of women's liberation, a homoerotic spectacle, and a commodity product of early capitalism—exemplifies the ways in which one dramatic character has been projected into iffy "subjunctive space" (48). In the chapter that follows, Anthony Kubiak and Reynolds explore the nature of such subjunctive space in Hamlet. The text's preoccupation with "'deceit conceits'"—"clever schemes involving artifice and fiction performed in order to fracture, transform, and/or expand the conceptual and/or emotional range of an individual or individuals" (67)—suggests that deceit is not simply a social or political strategy but rather " an initial state of mind that needs resistance"; as such, deceit conceits promote transversal movements in "all subjective territories exposed to the play" (69).
In chapter 4, Amy Cook and Reynolds argue that Jonson's Devil Is an Assquestions the standard early modern assumption that God represents order and Satan represents confusion; individuals themselves, rather than Satanic, "fugitive" influences...