The Architecture of the Act: Renovating Beatrice Joanna’s Closet
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This final chapter examines the in/visible act as a function of theatrical architectures. It takes Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling – a play about the sexual violence of space – as its central analytical object, and it marks both the culmination of, and a departure from, the work this book has done so far. I am interested in two related problems here: the spatial dynamics of sexual violation (how a female character’s locatedness on stage positions her for rape, and more), and the spatial dynamics of reception desire (how a play text or a live production of that text positions us, in the audience, to read a female character as sexual vixen or rape victim, sufferer or perpetrator). This last concern, in particular, represents the climax of my pre-occupation throughout the preceding chapters with acts of spectatorial percepticide, the possibility of audience witness, and the relationship both hold to the ways in which we currently imagine, and might productively reimagine, the representation of violence against women in early modern performance. The in/visible act is not simply a politicized performance gesture, a making-visible of the historical invisibility of violence against women: as the Duchess of Malfi knows, it necessarily requires a parallel gesture of politicized spectatorship, a willingness on our part to be unsettled, to come to terms with the ‘difficult knowledge’it imparts about the current shape of our viewing practices (Simon, 2005, p. 10). The risks and the potential of reception desire have ghosted every one of my readings thus far, because the politics of reception lie at the heart of the ethical questions that shape this book. What are we willing to see of a woman’s violation on stage? What is it our responsibility to see? How does the shape of our watching collude with the narrative and performance structures that enable violence’s effacement? How can we see beyond those structures to the ideological shape of violence’s representation, the stakes of our own watching?
KeywordsSexual Violation Female Body Audience Member Rape Victim Reception Desire
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