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Showing posts from October, 2015

Incest, Privacy and the Inhuman in "The Cenci"

I've never taught The Cenci before, but I'm very happy to have finally found a place for it on an undergraduate syllabus. Although somewhat overshadowed by illness (mine, their, the whole university's...), it was a great seminar.

I want to start my reflection by thinking about that relation so fundamental to so many tragedies: the articulation between the domestic/familial and public/political realms.

What is particularly intense about Percy Bysshe Shelley's revenge drama is its central traumatic fact of incest. As the politics of Romantic incest demand, the perversion and violation of the father/daughter bond by Count Cenci is itself a critique of larger structures based around patriarchal authority (aristocratic, ecclesiastical, metaphysical), and the centre of the play's action.

The scandal of incest, moreover, has a structurally radical effect. It turns things inside out. It is, ironically, perhaps the most private event in the play: sexual and domestic; displa…

On Lauren Berlant

I used to work with literary theory a lot more than I do now: my own trajectory and the disciplinary boundaries of Romantic Studies have led me away from it. However, if my Facebook feed is anything to go by, the most exciting stuff happening in theory in recent years has tended to come from the sites of 'queer theory': e.g. late Butler, Halberstam and, above all, Lauren Berlant. So it was good to get down to Cruel Optimism. As with all these theory blogs, I'm coming at this from a decent level of expertise in deconstruction, phenomenology and bits of post-Marxism, but not necessarily for other schools: so all errors and misconstruals will hopefully be excused!

1. Temporality. Above all, Berlant is investigating a particular kind of contemporary present. Her scene is set, largely in the West, in a late capitalist epoch: post-globalisation, post 9/11, post-financial crash. The citizens of this moment are a precariat, subject to a 'neoliberal feedback loop, with its effi…