Subjectivity, Theory and Early Modern Drama


  • Viviana Comensoli Viviana Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Theodora Jankowski Erie Community College
  • Bryan Reynolds University of California, Irvine



This forum has been organized, introduced, and edited by Viviana Comensoli with the aim of exploring current theoretical and critical approaches to the conceptualization and representation of subjectivity in English Renaissance drama. The introduction provides an overview of various poststructuralist theoretical approaches that since the 1980s have guided our thinking about the representation of early modern subjectivities, and calls for continued revision and revaluation of contemporary theoretical applications. In the spirit of continuing debate, the three essays that follow approach the topic from different revisionist perspectives. Although the three essays differ substantially in their theoretical/critical apparatus, they share two important and unqualified claims: 1) the need to link our contemporary investigations of Renaissance subjectivities and identifications with ideologies (early modern and modern) of power; and 2) the absolute need, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, for a theoretical methodology that is politically engaged and progressive.

Identifying Othello: Race and the Colonial (non)Subject by Viviana Comensoli: Comensoli combines political and psychoanalytic theory in an analysis of Shakespeare's Othello, arguing that the play not only coheres with the Subject/Other split that underwrites Western epistemologies of difference, but also upholds the colonialist ideology that works to exclude the black man from the Self/Other binary through which subjectivity is made possible.

'The chick got in the way' or, the Woman is/as Queer: Feminism, Queer Theory, and the Unlocking of Female Subjectivity in Early Modern Drama by Theodora Jankowski: Jankowski argues that an alliance between queer theory with feminist and Marxist/cultural materialist theories contributes in nuanced and significant ways to our understanding of subject performance in the early modern theatre. She illustrates her argument in a trenchant analysis of Thomas Dekker's Honest Whore plays.

Transversal Poetics and Fugitive Explorations: Subject Performance, Early Modern English Theatre, and Macbeth by Bryan Reynolds: Reynolds expands upon his theory of 'transversal poetics' with an 'investigative-expansive' mode of analysis that he has called 'fugitive explorations,' a politically and aesthetically empowering mode of critical analysis designed to combat the ideology of the disempowered subject that various forms of poststructuralist discourse have promoted.






Issues in Review Essays