This book offers a theoretical rationale for the emerging presentist movement in Shakespeare studies and goes on to show, in a series of close readings, that a presentist Shakespeare is not an anachronism. Relying on a Brechtian aesthetic of "naïve surrealism" as the performative model of the early modern, urban, public theater, James O’Rourke demonstrates how this Brechtian model is able to capture the full range of interplays that could take place between Shakespeare’s words, the nonillusionist performance devices of the early modern stage, and the live audiences that shared the physical space of the theatre with Shakespeare’s actors. O’Rourke argues that the limitations placed upon the critical energies of early modern drama by the influential new historicist paradigm of contained subversion is based on a poetics of the sublime, which misrepresents the performative aesthetic of the theater as a self-sufficient spectacle that compels reception in its own terms. Reimagining Shakespeare as our contemporary, O’Rourke shows how the immanent critical logic of Shakespeare’s works can enter into dialogue with our most sophisticated critiques of our cultural fictions.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Retheorizing Shakespeare 1. Spectres of Intention: Epic Theatre and the Lessons of Theory 2. Boys Will Be Boys: Subtexts and Afterthoughts in the Comedies 3. Racism and Homophobia in The Merchant of Venice 4. Love and Object-Cathexis in Troilus and Cressida: Just One of Those Things 5. The Exotic/Erotic and the Group: Othello 6. King Lear and the Art of Dying Notes Performance Bibliography Index
James O’Rourke is a Professor in the Department of English, Florida State University, US. His previous books include Sex,Lies and Autobiography: The Ethics of Confession and Keats’s Odes and Contemporary Criticism.
"His chapters combine local readings and nuanced theoretical insights with attentive close readings to suggest the myriad ways in which Shakespeare’s theater not only resists but also revises dominant political and cultural structures. O’Rourke sees a Shakespeare who is not merely immersed in his culture, but actively reshaping it. Both O’Rourke’s critiques of New Historicism and his readings of various plays present a powerful perspective on Shakespeare’s work, which allows for a Shakespeare who is still in many respects our contemporary." – Renaissance Quarterly