Erotic Beasts & Social Monsters: Shakespeare, Jonson & Comic Androgeny

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1st Edition

248 x 165 mm. 240pp Illustrated... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

The voluminous contemporary critical work on English Renaissance androgyny and transvestism debates has not fully uncovered the ancient Greek and Roman roots of the gender controversy.

Erotic Beasts & Social Monsters argues that the variant Renaissance views on the androgyne's symbolism are, in fact, best understood with reference to classical representations of the double-sexed or gender-baffled figure, and with the classical merging of that figure with images of beasts and monsters. Grace Tiffany's discussion of ancient beast-androgynes draws on satire as well as myth, citing Archilochus alongside Homer, Aristophanes with Euripides, and Juvenal next to Ovid and Apuleius. She thus illuminates a gender dispute as old as Western culture itself.

In the satiric tradition, the androgyne is a social transgressor whose effeminacy or mannishness indicates unwholesome bestiality and cultural breakdown. Tiffany argues, however, that in the mythic tradition, 'beastly' androgyny paradoxically represents communal wholeness, cultural unity, and social progress. Tiffany's first chapter on classical androgyny demonstrates how these two rival literary and dramatic traditions not only coexisted in the ancient world, but - as they were later to do in early modern England - actively opposed one another.

Turning then to the Renaissance revival of these competing classical perspectives, Tiffany focuses on the comic stage. She discusses both John Lyly's and William Shakespeare's celebration of mythic Platonic and Ovidian androgynes as central signifiers of a necessarily erotic communal relatedness. Shakespearean comedy in particular employs transvestite and otherwise androgynous figures to bind oppositional human forces into a harmonious whole and does so by direct and indirect references to the beast-androgyne's mythic function in classical literature.

Tiffany also recontextualises Ben Jonson's noted recoil from theatrical transvestism within the original classical debate. Tiffany further argues that Jonson's satiric recoil from 'effeminising' emotional relatedness springs paradoxically from a posture of isolated love-longing, from which the satirist bemoans the beloved Other's cruel neglect, and vows henceforth to dedicate himself to satirical detachment.

In a final chapter on the late Elizabethan Theatre Wars, the author demonstrates that As You Like It's comic androgynous hero embodies and dramatises Shakespeare's rejection of the related conventions of satiric melancholy and idealistic love-longing. Tiffany also discloses Shakespeare's and Jonson's occasional experiments with each other's comic methods and types. Reading The Merry Wives of Windsor and Bartholomew Fair as responsive gestures toward rival and androgyny traditions, she provides fresh insight into the characters of Falstaff and Ursula, and into the larger distinction between mythic and satiric perspectives on gender.
^ Drama ^ Shakespeare


SKU 9780874135503
Barcode # 9780874135503
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Grace TIFFANY

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