Monday, November 28, 2011

My forthcoming article on Mary Wortley Montagu

This essay examines Mary Wortley Montagu's self-representation in her letters, in the context of literature, history, and culture, especially her literal and metaphorical translations of a Turkish love lyric in Letter XXX, to Alexander Pope, in the spring of 1717. Beginning with a survey of recent feminist and postcolonial criticism in Montagu studies, I continue beyond those perspectives to study Montagu's own words as she presents herself and her purpose in the letter, and as she makes use of tropes of foreignness, literary tradition, and artistic merit. Along with a consideration of feminist interpretations of Montagu, this essay contributes a historical and cultural approach to the poet’s role, and the political resonance of her choice to translate this Turkish lyric.

Be delighted to receive any feedback from my readers / fellow blogizens.

Citation: Elizabeth Kelley Bowman, “The Poet as Translator: Mary Wortley Montagu Approaches the Turkish Lyric," Comparative Literature Studies 49 (2012): 28 MS. pages. [Issue number to be determined.]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On Mike Figgis's film Hotel

"Hotel’s cannibalism is theoretically based on the ravening act of adaptation. Its sexuality, including prostitution and necrophilia, is far more graphic than its violence, which tends to be sleek and hidden by night, as one of the duchess’s brothers says, 'I’ll goe hunt the Badger, by Owle-light: / “Tis a deed of darkenesse' (4.2.360-61). The sexual resurrection of the director in Hotel recalls not only the Winter’s Tale-influenced resurrection in The Fatal Secret but Webster’s own brief resuscitation of the duchess through the medium of Bosola’s love-struck repentance: 'Upon thy pale lips I will melt my heart / To store them with fresh colour' (4.2.370-71). She awakens: 'her Eye opes, / And heaven in it seems to ope, (that late was shut) / To take me up to mer[c]y' (4.2.373-75). Bosola speaks in the language of Petrarchan poetry, itemizing the beloved’s lips and eyes. This verbal anatomization recalls Nancy J. Vickers’s discussion of the Petrarchan disarticulation of the beloved, 'an obsessive insistence on the particular' and the 'individual fragments of the body' (266). For Vickers’s study of Petrarch, this dismemberment is misogynistic, but here it is matched by Bosola’s linguistic excisement of his own heart to nourish the duchess. Both are broken into pieces, collapsed, lost. The duchess cries for Antonio, whose dead body had been presented to her in waxwork alongside waxworks of their children slain, and Bosola assures her, '[Antonio] is living, / The dead bodies you saw, were but faign’d statues' (4.2.377-78), foreshadowing Theobald’s radical reversal of monument into living body. She cannot live, however, though she has proven resilient enough to come back from the dead. Dying, she cries out forgiveness in an echo of Bosola’s word, 'Mercy!' (4.2.381). Not only is this scene unabashedly sentimental, it contains the resurrection trope within Webster’s own text."

Citation: Bowman, Elizabeth. “Gender Memory in the Adaptation History of The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy: Webster, Theobald, Figgis.”  Philological Research. Chapter 9. Ed. Almitra Medina and Gilda M. Socarras. Athens: ATINER, 2011.

Excerpt from my new chapter


Bowman, Elizabeth. “Gender Memory in the Adaptation History of The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy: Webster, Theobald, Figgis.”  Philological Research. Chapter 9. Ed. Almitra Medina and Gilda M. Socarras. Athens: ATINER, 2011.


"Monuments of memory, laurels of self-reflexive immortality, and other symbols of posterity display Webster’s ambitions for the future of his work but also his fundamental skepticism of any ability to control his posthumous reputation and work. As events have shown, that skepticism was valid. Webster himself, in memorializing the sensational death of an Italian duchess in 1518, had revised and updated his source material, most notably in giving his female protagonist both a Stoic strength of will and indomitable virtue, a combination almost unique in early modern drama. While the play [The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy] was performed and admired at intervals for the next century, attended by Charles II and Samuel Pepys, the next major staging was a version written and directed in 1733 by Lewis Theobald, known for his meticulous 1726 edition of Shakespeare. His Dutchesse, however, did not so closely follow the original Webster text but was highly revised, even to impose a happy ending, and retitled The Fatal Secret. Its performance was a commercial and critical failure, although Theobald had done his best to appeal to the neoclassical mores of his age by imposing the Aristotelian unities on the structure of the play. For example, the events of The Fatal Secret all take place in one day. After that, Webster fell out of favor until, in 1850, the actress Isabella Glyn spearheaded a revival based not on the merits of the play, for critics denounced its graphic nature, but on her own personal popularity. In the twentieth century, the Modernist revival returned attention to Webster, and since the Second World War the play has been staged near-continuously across the globe, with a straitlaced fidelity to the original text that represents the long history of critical and commercial disdain for Theobald’s revisionist approach.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Early Modern Carnivalesque - March 2011

Welcome to the March 2011 Carnivalesque blog carnival!  

Thanks to Sharon Howard for the opportunity to be your host for this roll-call of early modern studies online from the last two months.  It's been a pleasure to sift through so much richness.


(Above: Pieter Balten's Grand Kermesse of St. George in the Village)

Visual Culture

A forthcoming exhibition at Duke University on flap anatomies inspired a post at diapsalmata on these meticulously detailed anatomical illustrations with unfolding parts -- and a dissection of the coy, somewhat exhibitionist poses of the figures.  (Related: modern-day codexical carver The Book Surgeon) Parallel to the January 2011 PMLA featuring Juan Carreno de Miranda's less naked portrait of young Eugenia Martinez Vallejo (1680), who has suffered the retrospective diagnosis of Prader-Willi syndrome, Alberti's Window has a post and lively discussion of Lavinia Fontana's lycanthropic portrait of young Antonietta Gonzalez (c. 1595).  Res Obscura examines some quite youthful drinkers and smokers in portraiture of the Dutch Golden Age. For more on Lavinia Fontana, see Monica Bowen's thoughtful post on Fontana and female self-portraiture at Three Pipe Problem, complementing the attention Titian's Venus with a Mirror receives from both Bowen at Alberti's Window and Hasan Niyazi at Three Pipe Problem.

(Below: the two portraits commissioned by Charles II of Eugenia Martinez Vallejo, La Monstrua Vestida and La Monstrua Desnuda)

Crime and Politics

Maddy's Ramblings surveys the history of Malabar Hill in Mumbai and reconsiders the "Malabar pirates" -- navy, brotherhood, resistance collective, pilgrims . . . Caravaggio's spectacular rap sheet is on display at The History Blog. Felicity Henderson at the Royal Society weighs evidence, motive, and opportunity for Isaac Newton's alleged destruction of a portrait of Robert Hooke. Conversion Narratives sniffs out the 1587 execution of Jesuit priest Thomas Pilchard, and the fishy code of his name as used in later testimonies. Tim Abbott at Walking the Berkshires investigates the case of Frances Dongan and transatlantic rape culture. Executed Today commemorates the forced suicide of a former imperial favorite, 1799.

Science and Technology

Sixteenth-century typographical errors dance a grand kermesse of their own at Wynken de Worde. Ptak Science Books examines a sixteenth-century "wooden internet" and celebrates a Galilean 400th anniversary (March 24, 1611). The Renaissance Mathematicus charts the descension of astrology in the mid-1600s. The Chirurgeon's Apprentice prepares a dose of corpse medicine.

Fashions in Dress

A guest post by Giles Milton (Nathaniel's Nutmeg) at Georgian London looks at the curious case of that original eonist the Chevalier d'Eon.  (Related: The Chevalier d'Eon and His Worlds: Gender, Espionage, and Politics in the Eighteenth Century, Continuum, 2010)

(Above: The Chevalier [at right] in a duel, from John Coulthart's blog)

Nick at Mercurius Politicus unfolds the history behind a metaphorical insult based on types of cloth in his post "Tongue of Saye." Kendra Van Cleave at Demode Couture catalogues a vast array of eighteenth-century ladies' riding habits and redingotes in a two-part series.

Zoology and Travel Narratives

BibliOdyssey plays Linneaus with Buffon's Beasts and follows La Perouse to farther shores. Res Obscura takes us on a Noachian voyage to the moon. Sundry Translations and Other Tangentalia translates a record of Alessandro Malaspina's 1789 expedition, an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Finally, the Contemporary Jacobean Society read up on witches and their familiars in the confessions of the Flower sisters.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monday Madwoman - Gaspara Stampa, March 21, 2011

Gaspara Stampa, the Venetian poet, virtuosa (professional singer), and unmarried young woman. One of the first and finest female poets to write in Italian. Of course, the dramatic tenor of her life doesn't hurt her popularity with scholars, either. Petrarchan sonnets. In a lifetime of thirty-one years, she wrote 310 poems, ten for each year of her life. Her Rime found posthumous publication, in 1554, via her sister Cassandra.

At her best, Stampa has a direct, glittery sensuality:

Io non v’invidio punto, angeli santi,
le vostre tante glorie e tanti beni,
e que’ disir di ciĆ² che braman pieni,
stando voi sempre a l’alto Sire avanti;

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New film - Duchess of Malfi

According to their Facebook page:

The 2010 short film based on John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi.

"Revenge for the Duchess of Malfi"

Produced by Irena Huljak and Kyle McDonald
Directed by Kyle McDonald and Philip Borg

Screen play by Kyle McDonald adapted from John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi."

The Duchess of Malfi: Irena Huljak
Daniel de Bosola: Kyle McDonald
Ferdinand: Jason Gray
Antonio Bologna: Shawn Ahmed

The film has been submitted to Sundance, Super Shorts, CFC Short Film Festival, and the VIEnetwork digital shortfilm Festival in New York.

Best wishes!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Monday Madwoman - March 7, 2011

The Women Writers Project online at Brown is allowing free access for the month of March (in honor of National Women's History Month).

To celebrate our first Monday Madwoman post, and in lieu of the Nehemiah Wallington diaries (the digitization is temporarily down), I present to you these most Jacobean madwomen:

The Wonderful Discoverie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower from March 11, 1618 (published 1619).

Legal theater, in performance and publication.


The Examination of Phillip Flower, the 25. of February, 1618. before Francis Earle of Rutland, Francis Lord Willoughby of Ersby, Sr.George Manners, and Sr. William Pelham.

Shee confesseth and saith, that shee hath a Spirit sucking on her in the forme of a white Rat, which keepeth her left breast, and hath so done for three or foure yeares, and concerning the agreement betwixt her Spirit and her selfe, she confesseth and saith, that when it came first unto her, shee gave her Soule to it, and it promised to doe her good, and cause Thomas Simpson to love her, if shee would suffer it to sucke her, which shee agreed unto; and so the last time it suckt was on Tuesday at night, the 23. of February.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

David Foley McCandless - Julie Taymor's Titus

McCandless, David Foley. "A Tale of Two Tituses: Julie Taymor's Vision on Stage and Screen." Shakespeare Quarterly 53.4 (Winter 2002): 487-511.

Excerpt: In attempting to give her treatment of Titus Andronicus the shock of the real, Taymor aimed to reawaken spectators to the visceral horror of violence, to rescue them from a benumbed dissociation from violence symptomatic of post-traumatic stress. Having herself been genuinely "shocked" by the play's staging of both trauma and post-traumatic debility, Taymor sought to re-expose her audience to the contagion of trauma, in both her acclaimed but little-seen off-Broadway production (1994) and the high-profile film it spawned (1999).

Susan Bennett - Performing Nostalgia

A major work in adaptation studies.

Williams, Robert Grant. "Review of Performing Nostalgia: Shifting Shakespeare and the Contemporary Past." Early Modern Literary Studies 2.3 (1996).

Bennett, Susan. Performing Nostalgia: Shifting Shakespeare and the Contemporary Past. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Pascale Aebischer - The "Contemporary Jacobean"

"Shakespearean Heritage and the Preposterous 'Contemporary Jacobean' Film: Mike Figgis's Hotel," Shakespeare Quarterly 60.3 (Fall 2009).


Mike Figgis’s Hotel (2001), which contains a film-within-the-film adaptation of John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, is representative of an emerging corpus of screen versions of Jacobean drama that aggressively pitch themselves against the conservative nostalgia characteristic of mainstream screen Shakespeares. Hotel is deliberate in its use of anachronism, narrative disjunction, and irreverence toward its source text, troping the revival of Webster’s play as both cultural cannibalism and the production of an easily digestible “fast-food McMalfi.” The contemporary Jacobean aesthetic it espouses is preposterous, in George Puttenham’s terms, in its deliberate misplacing of temporal and spatial relationships to articulate transgressive female desire that challenges the structures of the film industry and early modern society alike. Tracing its descent from Derek Jarman’s queer Tempest (1971) and Edward II (1991) and setting itself against the Shakespeare heritage industry as represented by its immediate predecessor Shakespeare in Love (1999), Figgis’s Hotel employs digital technology, improvisation, and intertextual dialogue to challenge not only Shakespeare’s cultural hegemony, but also the domination of the heteronormative male gaze in conventional cinema. If Hotel is a film “about” how to produce a fast-food McMalfi for a contemporary audience, Figgis’s use of the preposterous contemporary Jacobean aesthetic makes The Duchess of Malfi “about” the making of Hotel and “about” man’s control of transgressive female sexuality in the medium of film.