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Amputation, Phantom Limbs, and Spectral Agency in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Normand Chaurette's Les Reines SHAWN HUFFMAN Why grow the branches when/he root;s gone? Why wither not the {eaves IhaI want tlteir sap? Shakespeare. Richard 11/ (2.2.41 - 42) Sensation and the understanding of sensation in the light of the phantom·limb phenomenon open a window onto a particular realm of perception that has not yet been explored in theatre criticism.' The idea that the senses can be ghosted offers valuable new insight into the study of those cases where perception and action are articulated within a "remove" caused by amputation. This form of bodily alteration means that the perceptions and actions originating at the site of such loss are not directly attributable to the subject with whom they are associated. Rather, sense is penonned and action is "projected." While other fonns of "projection," resulting, say, from illness or paralysis, can be studied within this framework, the phenomenon of the phantom limb provides the most concrete example of this curious type of agency and is the one I will concentrate on in this article. I am calling this performance of sense and the actions associated with it spectral agency. The scope of this tenn, as well as its analytic potential, will become clear in the light of my reading of two plays: Shakespeare's Titus Andranicus and Nonnand Chaurette's Les Reines. At first glance, it may seem that the link between these two plays is some· what tenuous, if not arbitrary. Time, space, and cultural differences separate the respective sensoria2 to which they belong. Several factors. however, motivate thiscomparison. Shakespeare penneates Chaurette's work on several levels . In addition to his original writing, Chaurette is known within Quebec as an indefatigable translator of the English playwright, having produced French· language versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, As You Like It, Romeo alld Juliel, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. In the scope of his original work, Les Reines is also probably Chaurette's most Shakespearean Modern Drama, 47= I (Spring 2004) 66 Amputation, Phantom Limbs, and Spectral Agency play, undoubtedly due to its origin in an abandoned translation of Richard III. Chaurette states that, while working on this translation, he was constantly haunted by the female characters in Shakespeare's play, characters seemingly just beyond the reach of the audience, existing behind a veil of male ambition. In his play, he shines a light on the shadowy world of these queens and their individual rise and fall from power, placing them in the centre of a spatially enclosed world that becomes gradually smaller and smaller as the world outside is erased by a monumental snow-stann. Despite the obvious connections with Richard III, Chaurette's play departs in a number of interesting ways from its source. The most important change is the introduction of a new character , Anne Dexter. This innovation is not, however, entirely unmotivated. In fact, it is another Shakespearean play, Titus Andronicus, which provides an important key for the understanding of this new character and for her participation in what I am calling spectral agency through her experience of amputation and phantom limbs. It will be remembered that Anne, like Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, has had both hands amputated and has been reduced to silence. While the circumstances surrounding the respective amputations are different, they both occur against a backdrop of political intrigue and instability . As we shall see, Shakespeare's Roman play haunts Chaurette's drama in ways more indirect, yet just as powerful, as Richard Ill. AMPUTAT IO N AND THE PHA NTOM LIMB World experience emerges out of the perceptions the feeling subject has of his or her universe. The body. explains MerJeau-Ponty, is the "metteur en scene" of these perceptions, palpating meaning through the veil stretched out between the visible (sense) and the invisible (intellection) (24). Sensory loss - visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, or gustative - gives rise, however, to a set of circumstances that divert, displace. or disrupt embodied experience. The universe is touched by and touches the subject in modified ways, taking on specific contours and establishing the conditions for a revised subjectivity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 66-81
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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