The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England

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Cornell University Press, 1993 - History - 285 pages

Men and women in early modern Europe experienced their bodies very differently from the ways in which contemporary men and women do. In this challenging and innovative book, Gail Kern Paster
examines representations of the body in Elizabethan-Jacobean drama in the light of humoral medical theory, tracing the connections between the history of the visible social body and the history of the subject's body as experienced from within.

Focusing on specific bodily functions and on changes in the forms of embarrassment associated with them, Paster extends the insights of such critics and theorists as Mikhail Bakhtin, Norbert Elias, and Thomas Laqueur. She first surveys comic depictions of incontinent women as "leaky vessels" requiring patriarchal management and then considers the relation between medical bloodletting practices and the gender implications of blood symbolism. Next she relates the practice of purging to the theme of shame and assays ideas about pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing in medical and other nonliterary texts. Paster then turns to the use of reproductive processes in the plot structures of key Shakespeare plays and in Dekker's, Ford's, and Rowley's Witch of Edmonton.

Including twelve vivid illustrations, The Body Embarrassed will be fascinating reading for students and scholars in the fields of Renaissance studies, gender studies, literary theory, the history of drama, and
cultural history.

 

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About the author (1993)

Gail Kern Paster is Professor of English at The George Washington University.

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