June 29, 2014

If I could have any life I wanted, what would it be? A trite question, but potentially instructive. It forces me to view my fallen state as temporal. Everything in my life is unsettled, but it won’t always be that way. I simply lack the imagination, at present, to envision a life not entangled with—severed from—my former relationship. Once I accept that my worst fear has already been realized—the death of love—I’ll be able to countenance some kind of future for myself. “But whate’er I be, nor I, nor any man that but man is, with nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased with being nothing.” Shakespeare and the death of kings, the rise of the proletariat, the emancipation of women and the death of patriarchal structures, novelistic explications of crime and the innate violence of capital…all these things that have previously occupied my thoughts and inspired my imagination, and all I can think of now is the sound her slippers make when she drags her feet across the carpet, the smell of her hair, the way she said my name when I surprised her with something…and it feels as though all I’ve ever done in this life, done well and truly, was refill her water glass and hold her hand and tell her that she was beautiful.

March 15, 2014
Announcement of Indefinite Hiatus

I’m struggling with severe depression, resulting from recent changes in my personal life. I hope to resume this project in the near future, but I can’t say when that will be. Sincere thanks to everyone who follows this blog. It seems appropriate—and mordantly funny—that our current stopping-point is the doomed love of Troilus and his Cressida. “This is the monstrosity in love, lady, that the will is infinite and the execution confined, that the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit.”

March 13, 2014
"The unclassifiable play Troilus and Cressida is bilious in its depiction of how market values, fueled by the ‘universal wolf ’ (1.3.121) of appetite, have supplanted the old codes of heroism. The mixed attitudes of the plays about the new cultural dispensations—cautious celebration of individual risk and versatility, dawning horror at the losses that their ascendancy might spell—are not unconnected to the contradictions of Shakespeare’s own theatre company, which embodied the social contradictions of its time. On the one hand, the King’s Men—as their very name suggests—owed feudal subservience to their royal patron. On the other hand, they were a joint-stock company seeking to make a financial profit from their labor and their capital assets. With one foot in the feudal world and another in capitalism, Shakespeare was institutionally well positioned to theorize cultural conflict and historical transformation."

— Jonathan Gil Harris, Shakespeare and Literary Theory

March 13, 2014

Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

—Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act I, Scene III

March 12, 2014
"In explicitly portraying the production of objects of desire through ‘estimation,’ ‘fantasy,’ ‘th’imaginary relish,’ the play locates desire not in the realm of satiable need, but in the register of the symbolic. Lacan’s distinction between need (the internal tension which achieves satisfaction in its appropriate object, as for example, the infant’s hunger is satisfied with its mother’s milk), demand (the attempt to articulate and address the need), and desire, which resides in the gap between need and demand, between the biological and its symbolic formulation, points to the inherently ‘excentric and insatiable’ nature of desire which is the monstrosity in love: ‘Desire is situated in dependence on demand—which, by being articulated in signifiers, leaves a metonymic remainder that runs under it, an element that is not indeterminate, which is a condition both absolute and unapprehensible, an element necessarily lacking, unsatisfied, impossible, misconstrued, an element that is called desire.’ Desire is the drive’s mediation through signs, fantasy, ‘hallucinations,’ and is maintained in the subject’s relation not to bodies—objects—but to signs. The very impossibility of satisfaction through objects, however, makes possible another kind of satisfaction through fantasy; the pleasure of omnipotence in relation to the object."

— Carol Cook, Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre

March 12, 2014
"This is the monstrosity in love, lady, that the will is infinite and the execution confined, that the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit."

— Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene II

March 12, 2014
"The paradox of freedom is that it severs you from the world in which you practise it. Once again, self-realization involves self-estrangement. The price of liberty is eternal homelessness. Freedom can find no fitting objective correlative of itself in any of its works, a fact which threatens to strike all of them trite and arbitrary. A desire which is acted upon thus comes to seem just as fruitless as one which is not. The more the subject feels its freedom to be necessary, the more dismayingly contingent its existence becomes. For Machiavelli, our appetites are insatiable and our fulfilments confined, so that ‘the human mind is perpetually discontented, and of its possessions is apt to grow weary’. Shakespeare’s Troilus puts it rather more memorably to Cressida: “This is the monstrosity in love, lady, that the will is infinite, and the execution confin’d; that the desire is boundless, and the act a slave to limit’ (Act 3, sc. 2). Desire is the great tragic protagonist of modernity, striving and forever falling short, entangling itself in its own too-much."

— Terry Eagleton, Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic

March 12, 2014

Sext: This shall I undertake; and ‘tis a burden which I am proud to bear.

March 11, 2014

fallaciamiserabilis said: The first half or so of this is a really interesting glimpse into the perception of “progress” as a concept in the 1500s as opposed to today. Like, how ‘turning back the clock’ is equally seen as unthinkable and destructive, as it is today, yet forces such as religion and…

I agree that the strength of Carolyn Merchant’s The Death of Nature is in its first half; the way she traces evolving and competing narratives of “nature” and “progress” throughout the early modern period.

March 11, 2014
"Not only does Marx parody Shakespeare, and in particular Richard III, but he also pays particular attention to parody in Shakespeare, and to the bitter fool Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, a fool whom Marx would continue to quote and to appropriate throughout his life."

— Peter Stallybrass, Marxist Shakespeares

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