Shakespeare, Authority, Sexuality : Unfinished Business in Cultural Materialism book cover
1st Edition

Shakespeare, Authority, Sexuality
Unfinished Business in Cultural Materialism

ISBN 9780415402361
Published August 17, 2006 by Routledge
238 Pages

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Book Description

Shakespeare, Authority, Sexuality is a powerful reassessment of cultural materialism as a way of understanding textuality, history and culture, by one of the founding figures of this critical movement. Alan Sinfield examines cultural materialism both as a body of ongoing argument and as it informs particular works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, especially in relation to sexuality in early-modern England and queer theory.

The book has several interlocking preoccupations:

  • theories of textuality and reading
  • the political location of Shakespearean plays and the organisation of literary culture today
  • the operation of state power in the early-modern period and the scope for dissidence
  • the sex/gender system in that period and the application of queer theory in history.

These preoccupations are explored in and around a range of works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Throughout the book Sinfield re-presents cultural materialism, framing it not as a set of propositions, as has often been done, but as a cluster of unresolved problems. His brilliant, lucid and committed readings demonstrate that the ‘unfinished business’ of cultural materialism - and Sinfield’s work in particular - will long continue to produce new questions and challenges for the fields of Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies.

Table of Contents

1. Unfinished Business: Problems in Cultural Materialism  2. Pastoral, As You Like It, and the Ideology of Literary History  3. Poetaster, The Author, and the Perils of Cultural Production   4. How to Read The Merchant Of Venice Without Being Heterosexist  5. Cultural Materialism And Intertextuality: The Limits of Queer Reading in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Two Noble Kinsmen  6. Effeminacy, Friendship and the Hero in Marlowe and Shakespeare  7. Near Misses: Ganymedes and Pageboys  8. Sex and the Lyric: Sidney, Barnfield, Marlowe  9. What Happens in Shakespeare’s Sonnets  10. Rape and Rights: Measure For Measure and the Limits of Cultural Imperialism  11. Unfinished Business: Reprise  Bibliography  Index

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Alan Sinfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex.  He has published or edited eighteen books in the fields of Shakespeare and sexuality, lesbian and gay studies, modern theatre, and post-1945 politics and culture.  These publications include Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, edited with Jonathan Dollimore (1985, ed. 2 1994) and Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading (1992) and Cultural Politics--Queer Reading (1994, ed. 2 2005), books which established cultural materialism in the field of literary studies. His most recent publications include British Culture of the Postwar, edited with Alistair Davies (2000) and On Sexuality and Power (Columbia University Press, 2004).


'If there were a version of Desert Island Discs for literary criticism, this book would top the list of things I would want with me to read again and again for its clarity of purpose, its generosity of spirit, the brilliance of its insights, and its ability to engage seamlessly and resonantly with current scholarship, contemporary politics, historical dynamics, and the meanings of Shakespeare.' - Lena Cowen Orlin, University of Maryland, USA, and Executive Director of the Shakespeare Association of America

'Alan Sinfield has been one of the most thoughtful and provocative writers on early modern culture for the last two decades and his critical power is evident throughout this book.' - Kate McLuskie, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

'Those familiar with Sinfield's previous work will need no encouragement to read the book, and newcomers will find it an excellent introduction.' - The British Theatre Guide