[Cross-Cultural Performances: Differences in Women's Re-Visions of Shakespeare]

By Lister, Rota H.; Novy, Marianne | Resources for Feminist Research, Fall/Winter 1995 | Go to article overview

[Cross-Cultural Performances: Differences in Women's Re-Visions of Shakespeare]


Lister, Rota H., Novy, Marianne, Resources for Feminist Research


Adrienne Rich's 1971 manifesto for women writers, "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision," has supplemented for the Second Wave of the modern women's movement what Virginia Woolf formulated foundationally at the end of the First Wave in A Room of One's Own (1929): although women do appear in the writings by men, they are represented as objects of men's visions and constructions. Whether they appear as men's ego-enhancing mirrors or hostility displacing objects of contempt, they are not represented as subjects of their own experiences and self-fashioning. When the woman writer, therefore, seeks to enter the world of literary discourse, she must see "with fresh eyes," her work about the lives of women and men must be one of seeing anew, of "re-vision." Virginia Woolf's model for a new kind of androgynous mind to be developed by modern women writers is William Shakespeare, who wrote with a "man-womanly mind." Such a mind can create valid versions of masculinity and femininity without hierarchical distinctions. A next step, then, might be to apply such a concept of gender-balanced writing to interpretations and performances of the enduring literary and theatrical heritage of Shakespeare's dramatic canon. With its universal dissemination, it lends itself particularly well to comparative cultural explorations: how do women writers, directors or actors re-vise, for example, The Tempest, with its solitary female amidst a world of men'? How do Black women writers re-vise Othello to overcome racism and colonialism in their versions? Marianne Novy's Cross-Cultural Performances: Differences in Women's Re-Visions of Shakespeare (1993) is a companion volume to her Women's Re-Visions of Shakespeare (1990) which dealt with Shakespeare's cultural image, plots and characters as re-interpreted by British and American women writers; the text reviewed here emphasizes performance, race and colonialism. Women's revisionary versions of The Tempest, for example, include Judith Lee's article "Rough Magic: Isak Dinesen's ReVisions of The Tempest" and Diana Brydon's "Sister Letters: Miranda's Tempest in Canada." The former is a discussion of Dinesen's tales, Anecdotes of Destiny, a dialogue with Shakespeare's Tempest concerning art, exile and power, the latter "some Canadian reimaginings of Miranda's motivations and her options." Dinesen's focus shifts from Prospero to Ariel: "both prophet and trickster," a marginal figure between "Shakespeare's patriarchal island and the promised land of (female) desire," while Brydon explores re-visions which move from postcolonial readings of The Tempest "that privilege the Prospero-Caliban dialectic and Third World fictions, toward rethinking the possibilities of Miranda's story in rewritings that emerge from settler-invader societies such as Canada." Two contributions to this collection of revisionary essays focus on Hamlet: Martha Tuck Rozett's "Gertrude's Ghost Tells Her Story: Lillie Wyman's Gertrude of Denmark" and Ania Loomba's "Hamlet in Mizoram." Lillie Buffum Chace Wyman's "interpretive romance" about the Queen of Denmark belongs to the Suffrage Era and appeared in 1924, five years before A Room of One's Own. …

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