Contested and Eccentric: Futures of Sexuality in Shakespeare Studies

Mario DiGangi
Contested and Eccentric: Futures of Sexuality in Shakespeare Studies
Various methods—psychoanalytic, deconstructive, feminist, queer, materialist—have proven conducive for illuminating sexuality in Shakespeare’s texts. In this talk, I reflect on my own scholarly practice to explore the purchase of a historicist approach to early modern sexuality. I focus on two critical concepts central to my historicist practice: contestation andeccentricity. By contestation I refer to the insight that sexual meanings in Shakespeare’s drama and culture are not given by a particular discourse or institution, but are actively produced through contingent, context-specific, struggles and debates. Eccentricity refers to the importance of decentering Shakespearean representations of sexuality, positioning them in relation to the representations of other dramatists and to unfamiliar or newly discovered cultural artifacts. In addition to reassessing my own scholarship via these concepts, I will address recent developments in sexuality studies that push our understanding of sexual contestation and eccentricity in productive directions.  Finally, I will consider how my current research, which draws from affect studies, represents a particularly intriguing path in the transformation of sexuality studies both through and beyond historicist models.