Shakespeare’s Blood (Abstracts Due September 30, 2012)
Julius Caesar mocks his wife’s ominous dream:
“She dreamt tonight she saw my statue,
Which like a fountain with a hundred spouts
did run pure blood: and many lusty Romans
Came smiling and did bathe their hands in it.” (2.2.76-79)
This seminar will look at various representations of blood in Shakespeare’s plays. From intense physical moments of bleeding on the stage, to abstract concerns around legitimacy and primogeniture, papers will focus on issues of humoral theory, embodiment, stage properties, and kinship.
Marjorie Garber, in “Shakespeare After All” (2004), claims that “Macbeth” is a play obsessed with blood in its literal, symbolic, metonymic, and paternal meanings: “For it is the word blood, in all its forms that haunts Macbeth. Where some have blood in the sense of family, issue, children, and lineage, others–like the childless Macbeth and Lady Macbeth–have blood in the sense of bloodshed, ultimate disorder rather than orderly sequence, death rather than life, the end of a line rather than a line without an end. With the coming of Banquo’s ghost, we find Macbeth almost resigned to this inevitable idea of blood: ‘It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood” (716-717).
Yet this importance of blood permeates many of Shakespeare’s works. From Gail Kern Paster’s humoral “laudable blood” to Lady Macbeth’s prayer for amenorrhea, from the late Caesar’s “wounds, poor dumb mouths” to Coriolanus’ warlike “bloody brow,” Shakespeare’s plays are steeped in and ooze of blood. This seminar will question the various, complex ways contemporary scholarship engages with the idea of blood in early modern drama and culture.
Participants will submit and pre-circulate papers a month prior to the conference in Boston. Each participant will be responsible for responding to several papers in preparation for our meeting. In addition, participants will prepare discussion questions for the group and will prepare an extended abstract for their paper.
At the 2012 NeMLA convention in Rochester, we successfully ran a similar seminar themed around experiences and literary representations of smell, taste, and touch in early modern Europe. The seminar-style format was well received by both participants and audience members.
For more information about NeMLA, please see: http://nemla.org/index.html