Figurative and literal ugliness has a history. This panel seeks to explore all things ugly about all things related to Shakespeare, e.g., bodies, manners, spectators, readers, kitsch. What constitutes the ugly? What are the ethics of reconstituting historical ugliness? What contemporary ugly things were not considered so in Shakespeare’s day? What are strategies for discussing contemporary ugly horrors – e.g., pedophilia, terrorism, obesity? Papers would ideally take up not just the topic, but also a self-conscious consideration of their own relationship to the ugly.
The selected papers will counter the objectifying tendency evident in many theories of the body and cultural experience. This panel and the project underwriting it takes up the subject of ugliness in order to encourage a very different ethical relationship between the critic and her subjects, particularly when the subjects involve the body or the past. The ethical relationship we seek to promote is one in which the critic recognizes and interrogates her often quite visceral responses to the ugly. In this, we want to consider the ethical dynamic that plays itself out when the individual feels revulsion or horror at certain stigmatized concepts. In a period in which certain authorities seek to increase effective control by drawing on fears, the horror that certain ugly bodies, actions, and events can elicit is not without political implications. (We intend the openness regarding which “period” we refer to, our own or Shakespeare’s.)
Elena Levy-Navarro, Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is author of The Culture of Obesity in Early and Late Modernity: Body Image in Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and Skelton (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and the editor of the forthcoming, Historicizing the Fat Body in the Anglo-American West (Ohio State University Press). She has published essays on John Donne, Andrew Marvell, Luisa Carvajal, migraines, and monstrous fatness.
Jesse Swan, Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, publishes in the areas of bibliographical and textual studies, particularly as related to Elizabeth Cary, for whom he is finalizing his edition of her history of Edward II, and early modern cultural studies, including on Shakespeare.
Program in English
University of Wisconsin at Whitewater
Whitewater, WI 53190
Telephone: (262) 472-1036
Fax: (262) 472-1037
Department of English Language and Literature
117 Baker Hall
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls IA 50614-0502
Telephone: (319) 273-2821
Fax: (319) 273-5807
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