Journée d’études organisée par Louis ANDRE, doctorant au CESCM–UMR 7302 et Oliver NORMAN, doctorant au MAPP- EA 2626.
Date : 2 février 2023, de 10h à 16h30
Lieu : CESCM (salle Crozet), Poitiers
Entrée libre, dans la limite des places disponibles
VIOLA. I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too.
(Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, II.4.120–21)
Cette journée d’étude s’intéressera à la question de la radicalité du théâtre et du monde de la performance de genre au sens large. Il s’agira d’interroger à la fois les pratiques théâtrales de l’époque élisabéthaine et jacobéenne, mais aussi les reprises de ces performances à notre époque. Le théâtre est-il toujours lieu d’une radicalité politique, d’une revendication, voire (pour utiliser les termes de ses détracteurs) d’une perversion ? N’est- il pas plutôt, comme tout medium artistique de masse, le lieu d’un lissage, d’une généralisation, d’un divertissement qui prend le dessus sur toute tentative de revendication politique ?
10h – Oliver NORMAN (Université de Poitiers) – Accueil des participants et ouverture de la journée d’étude
10h30 – Dr. Margaret OWENS (Nipissing University) : Paris is Burning for Shakespeare
11h10 – Dr. Imke LICHTERFELD (Universität Bonn) : Gender changes – “the bias of the world”?
12h – Déjeuner
14h – Johann PACCOU (Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle) – “He might well have been a woman”: John Lyly’s Galatea (c.1588) and the malleability of gender in court performance
14h40 – Pause
15h – Pauline DURIN (Université Clermont-Auvergne) – The Roaring Girl : une fille au masculin
15h40 – Pr. Robert I. LUBLIN (University of Massachusetts Boston) – Anxious Audiences and Gender Play on the Early Modern English Stage
16h20 – Clôture de la journée d’étude
Paris is Burning for Shakespeare – Dr. Margaret OWENS (Nipissing University)
When literary scholars in the 1980s turned their attention to the topic of crossdressing (Jean Howard, Lisa Jardine, Phyllis Rackin, to cite a few), they likely did not anticipate the urgency and relevance that this area of research might acquire in the 21st-century as we witness the emergence of a post- binary culture among the demographic now known as Generation Z. This paper discusses the development of an undergraduate course on crossdressing in early modern drama in which students are encouraged to relate current discourse and debates about gender identity and expression to gender performance in sixteenth and seventeenth-century drama.
The course explores crossdressing as a theatrical practice, plot device, literary topic, cultural fantasy, and historical phenomenon. More specifically, this paper addresses the inclusion of the documentary Paris is Burning (1990) in the course as a work that opens up avenues for exploring crossdressing on the early modern stage. While the participants in the drag ball community voice a range of perspectives on what it means to be “real”, their sincere commitment to their performance stands out and offers a possible glimpse into the expertise of the young men and boys who enacted female roles in Shakespeare’s theatre.
I contrast the embrace of drag as a creative, empowering experience in Paris is Burning to the depiction of crossdressed performance in the film Stage Beauty (2005), which features a protagonist loosely based on the historical Edward Kynaston, a renowned actor, who specialized in female roles during the first few years of the Restoration period (1660-61). Stage Beauty imagines a Kynaston who has been profoundly damaged by his training and career as an impersonator of women. This film treats crossdressing as a perversion of both theatrical realism and gender identity.
Gender changes – “the bias of the world”? – Dr. Imke Lichterfeld (Universität Bonn)
Female actors today raise their voice to claim parts that used to be restricted to male actors. Due to professional gender restrictions, young males portrayed female characters on the early modern stage. Casting women was illegal then. Now, roles are mostly cast according to the binary genders of characters. If traditional “legitimate” casting – even today – is equal to “white male” for male parts, then transformations of these concepts allow for fascinating opportunities. One aspect addressed in this paper is the representation of such “legitimacy” and its subversion.
An “illegitimate” child in the early modern era was considered an “Other” due to their hybridity, expressed through a non-normative, transgressive sexuality. Bastard children like Philipp in Shakespeare’s devastating tragedy King John are “dangerous social outsider[s]” (Neill) and they constitute a marginal group that can nevertheless influence staged politics. However, the bastard can also be an attractive, charismatic character, active, and intelligent.
Disrupting conservative casting concepts against sexist preconceptions, the bastard in King John has lately been cast with women. Such revolutionary castings of the ‘Other’, the illegitimate, the abject via cross-dressing, as well as gender-blind and gender-conscious role swaps on the contemporary stage, can demonstrate not only a certain fluidity in gender representation but also different political and social issues.
Glenda Jackson performed the role of King Lear (2017); Cologne Schauspielhaus did an all-female King Lear (2009). We can explore these possibilities alongside ideas that Shapiro underlines as a “fascination with sexual identity and gender roles”. Casting Philipp with a female actor raises the awareness of female power in the acting business, “a female ‘object’ who inexplicably returns the glance, reverses the gaze, and contests the place and authority of the masculine position” (Butler). This demands readings of female empowerment.
“He might well have been a woman”: John Lyly’s Galatea (c.1588) & the malleability of gender in court performance – Johann PACCOU (Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle)
As scholars of John Lyly such as G. K. Hunter are wont to remind us, the Elizabethan playwright’s dramaturgy “was aimed not at popular success but at royal favour” (Galatea and Midas, 2008, p.5). This purpose is quite obvious in Galatea (or Gallathea), a pastoral and mythological comedy designed from the prologue to the epilogue to entertain Queen Elizabeth I, in front of whom it was performed on New Year’s Day in the year 1588 by an all-boy troupe composed of the choirboys of St Paul’s Cathedral. The tradition of court entertainment by choirboys dates back to the Middle Ages, and the use of boy actors was not restricted to private theatre performance in early modern England.
Lyly’s play dramatizes the malleability of gender identity in its day and age, as its main plotline revolves around a familiar yet particularly elaborate interplay of cross-dressing and mistaken identities when Galatea and Phillida, two young virgins disguised as boys by their respective fathers to save them from being sacrificed to Neptune, chance upon each other in the forest and soon fall in love with each other. Though the destabilisation of gender identity is redoubled by the very use of boy actors, the fact that the play was written for court performance calls into question the subversive potential which is oftentimes associated with voluntary gender confusion. Can Lyly indeed afford being radical in a play performed in front of the Queen? Can highlighting the plasticity of gender identity and presentation be considered a radical gesture when it is performed in front of a monarch who would put forward her own masculine qualities in order to gain credibility as a ruler? In a play where gender expression is a mask that can easily be put on and taken off, can cross-dressing be the steppingstone of other, perhaps more destabilising forces? In this paper, I offer to show that the author of Galatea is in fact more radical in his treatment of same-gender love than in his handling of gender fluidity.
The Roaring Girl : une fille au masculin – Pauline DURIN (Université Clermont-Auvergne)
Parmi les nombreuses héroïnes travesties du théâtre de la première modernité, il en est une qui fait figure d’exception : Moll, le personnage principal de The Roaring Girl de Thomas Middleton et Thomas Dekker (1611). Telle Mary Frith, la figure historique dont elle est inspirée, Moll porte à la fois des vêtements d’hommes et de femmes, et arbore des accessoires indéniablement phalliques tels que la pipe ou l’épée. Alors que le travestissement était courant sur la scène élisabéthaine et jacobéenne, à l’instar de Portia dans The Merchant of Venice ou de Viola dans Twelfth Night, Moll est pourtant décrite comme une anomalie ou comme un être surnaturel qui provoque le rire ou la stupeur : « A creature […] nature brought forth / To mock the sex of woman » (I.2.128-129). Elle semble incarner la « performance » du genre telle que définie par Judith Butler, et de nombreux termes sont employés pour la définir, tant par la critique que par les personnages de la pièce : hermaphrodite, monstrueuse, travestie, non-binaire. Pourquoi cette difficulté définitoire et quels sont les enjeux qu’elle incarne ? N’essaie-t-on pas de définir un personnage qui refuse précisément de l’être ?
Cette présentation s’efforcera de montrer que la performance de Moll sur scène, loin de revêtir une dimension carnavalesque, touche à une profonde remise en question des normes de genre. Moll met en effet en cause un ordre qui ne sera pas rétabli, elle interroge son identité et la notion de genre. De plus, sa présence sur scène incite les autres personnages à s’interroger à leur tour non seulement sur leur identité, mais aussi sur leur orientation sexuelle. Enfin, parce qu’elle n’est pas qu’un être fictif, Moll peut aussi être perçue comme l’incarnation scénique de débats relatifs à l’identité de genre et à l’égalité entre les sexes propres, tant à la première modernité qu’à notre époque.
Anxious Audiences and Gender Play on the Early Modern English Stage – Pr. Robert I. LUBLIN (University of Massachusetts Boston)
The early modern English theatrical practice of having boys cross dress to play the women’s parts has drawn a great deal of scholarly attention over the last thirty years, particularly from New Historicists and Feminists. What has not been thoroughly considered, however, are the multiplicity of meanings that were received by audiences at the time. Neither new historicism’s dedication to exploring the circulation of cultural energy nor feminism’s determination to understand the workings of gender encourage a complex, multifaceted engagement with the manner in which theatrical productions were received. In the paper I wish to present at the Université de Poitiers, I explore the heterogeneous nature of audiences to do justice to the variety of ways that crossdressing was experienced in early modern theatres. Ultimately, I work to establish the range of responses to crossdressing that audiences had at the time. Evidence from the period, drawn from a variety of sources, provides hints as to how audiences engaged the convention. These sources often disagree, threatening the integrity of scholarship that attempts to make monolithic assertions about the production of meaning in performance. By shifting my focus to reception, however, the various sources open up possible meanings and encourage a more comprehensive engagement with the very different ways that performances were experienced by early modern audiences.