Macdonald 2002

From Whiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Macdonald, Joyce Green. Women and Race in Early Modern Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.

black lady and wild knight tournament in James's court --played by a white woman with black leather coverings? or by an African in his court?

"Allusion and displacement, rather than excess and denaturalization, seem to me to mark a fundamental descriptive axis of the representational practices surrounding race in the early modern period." (4)

"If the racialized body is thus curiously subject to abstraction and displacement, it was also and simultaneously endowed with a stubborn materiality." (5)

African women explicitly described as white -- "the unspecified skin color or, more frequently, the Petrarchan whiteness of the Renaissance African women whose stories I examine here seem to function as a rhetorical assertion of the opposite of the racial difference whose existence was being forcefully experienced by Europeans in an age of colonization and exploration. The racial 'sameness' that these women's white skin apparently proclaims does not, in fact, repudiate the idea of racialized norms of femininity, since other kinds of difference -- sexual, political, behavioral -- will be fully identified as racial matters within the newly whitened social body." (9-10)

"My book will trace two of these gendered tactics of communicating empire: the removal of dark-skinned women from representation, and the submersion of Englishwomen's racial identity into gender." (10)

critique of post-colonialism and its "evacuation of race" (13-14)

Cleopatra, Dido, Sophonisba

"the fluidity of racial identity in these texts and in the culture which produced them answers particular ideological needs. Race performs specific kinds of work, and I want to speculate on and argue about what the racing and unracing of African women was made to mean." (18)

Cleopatra: whiteness and knowledge

Appiah -- racial and social identities as complex and multiple growining out of histoy of changing responses to various forces; skin color signifies something deeper, a shared community; "strategic essentialism" for the purposes of self-identification

Cleopatra as a figure that helps us think through race as both social construct and bodily reality

Martin Bernal, Black Athena (1987) -- argued that the "degree to which ancient Greek culture was hybridized with Egyptian and Semitic sources has been minimized or suppressed by the modern discipline of classics" (24) -- provoked intense responses, including Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (1996)

Shelley Haley, "Black Feminist Thought and Classics: Re-membering, Re-claiming, Re-empowering" -- on black Cleopatra

not interested in Cleopatra's skin color so much as "the conclusions people dra from flattened racial identifications, the processes they go through to establish them, what they put at stake" (36)

"How does whiteness -- as opposed both to an essentialized Afrocentrist notion of 'blackness' and to Lefkowitz's equally notional raceless and genderless conduct of classical knowledge -- operate in early modern productions of Cleopatra?" (36)

"early modern whiteness works to naturalize and normalize the operations of existing hierarchies of rac,e nation, and sexuality. Whiteness articulates cultural authority." (37)

Mary Sidney's Cleoptra is white (37-8), described in Petrarchan terms --"The Petrarchan whitenessof the body which will reclaim Antony at the moment of her own death is the enabling vehicle of Pembroke's bold reimagination of Cleopatra. The Europeanizing of Cleopatra, queen of a country which Roman historians recognized as being organized under disturbingly Hellenistic notions of tryphe, or magnificence -- as being, in fact, quite different from the kinds of would-be subject countries Rome was used to encountering -- works to refocus the attnetion to cultural and imperial conflict contained in so many Roman accounts of relations between Rome and Egypt." (38)

Samuel Daniel's Tragedie of Cleopatra "second her play's conviction of the corrosive effects of the Egyptian queen's sexuality, but without insisting on the truth of her love for Antony." (38)

"If mbroke uses Cleopatra's sxuality to efface the existence of racial difference bertween Roman and Egyptian, Daniel uses it to proclaim and indict difference." (39)

"In Daniel and in Lucrece, but not in Daniel's friend and patron Pembroke, race is explicitly construed in sexual, cultural, and dynastic terms; reproductive bodies enter history. In choosing to translate Garnier so as to minimize his attention to the political implications of Rome's passage from republic to empire, Pembroke also denies the equivalencies Daniel will forge between race, empire, and sexuality.Her whitened field of racial reference marshals support for her vision of Cleopatra as a new model of female exemplarity, but consciously draws on the resources of an existing language of color and femininity in order to do so." (43)

"Whiteness -- the Petrarchan whiteness of Pembroke or the invisible operatiosn of cultural authority, invisible until someone (disorderly Afrocentrists or Daniel's 'Queene of lust') mounts a challenge to its continuance -- carries a powerful charge in the legend of Cleopatra." (43)

Sex, race, and empire in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

"The thick web of texts surrounding Antony and Cleopatra is deeply marked by the will to superseded imperial and racial politics with sexual ones." (46)

Jonathan Dollimore's influential argument that the sexual bond between A and C "'is rooted in a fantasy transfer of power from the public to the private sphere'" (quting Dollimore) -- play's apparent binaries (Rome/Egypt, male/female) are "actually ideological effects of the power relations in whose terms the lovers define themselves and their destiny" (46)

Cixous -- wanting to see the queen as desiring subject, not just blank slate for Roman sexual fantasy/projection; but maps that on to dark continent, Africa

descriptions of "refusals and short-circuits of racial representation in the stage history of Antony and Cleopatra" (52)

"Shakespeare's play delights in confusing the firm gender categories on which orientalist practice relies to establish its domains of master and subordinate." (53 -- she is confused with Antony twice -- "gender is open rather than closed"

it matters in the play that Cleopatra is physically different

"I believe the play is finally so convinced of the cosmic import of Cleopatra's racial difference from the Romans that it cannot be bothered to be consistent about her skin color. Its view of what her race means is so large as to render mere consistency of physical description irrelevant. Her fluctuating color is of a piece with the double gender Plutarch ascribes to the queen-goddesses of Egypt: a performative announcement of her royal prerogative." (60)

Elizabeth Cary, Tragedy of Mariam -- "the dark and unchaste Cleopatra is Mariam's foil, allowing her to shine all the more steadily through Herod's wild emotional oscillation and beside Salome's cold self-interest" (63)

"'Black,' 'brown,' a 'dowdy,' a 'blowse,' Cary's Cleopatra shadows her heroine, in much the same fashion as the casting of black actresses as Iras has been used to highlight the presence of white English Cleopatras in productions of Shakespeare's play. Writing within the class and gender settings of closet drama, writing to vindicate her claims to authorship and intellect, Cary -- as Pembroke already had -- gives the Cleopatra story a white heroine because the alternaties would have been too threatening to the circumstances which allowed these women to write at all. White heroines from early modern female authors emphasize the propriety of their authorship, the affiliation of their speaking voices with dominant racial cultures, even as they may be disputing the sway of dominant constructions of gender and sexuality." (64) -- "Mariam answers Shakespeare by inscribing a fixed sense of racial identity into its story of life after Actium. ... This whitened Mariam's lack of political ambition -- a renunciation of the world Cary's heroine holds in common with Daniel's and Pembroke's -- contrasts with the worldly machinations of the 'brown Egyptian,' Cleopatra." (64)

Shakespeare's Cleopatra -- rewrites narrative of Apollo/Phaeton/Phoebus (65)

"Instead of a story about why concentrating power int he hands of one strong authoritarian ruler is best, Cleopatra links her race to a story about masculine desire and masculine surrenter." (66)

atra's death and transumption to another plane of being is undertaken in conscious spite of the Roman masculinist order." (66)

"A and C, perhaps more than any of the other Renaissance texts of African queens, alters the patterns of gender and racial dominance these texts reproduce. This Cleopatra's Roman lover is led by his love for her into a denial of the power of one of Rome's founding legends and all its burden of racial and sexual discipline; in an allusion as offhand as Cleopatra's explanation of her dark skin, he will refuse as well the foundational significance of racialized cultural conflict to the construction of a recognizably Roman identity." (67)