The Rhetorical Feminine: Gender and Orient on the German Stage, 1647-1742

The Rhetorical Feminine: Gender and Orient on the German Stage, 1647-1742

The Rhetorical Feminine: Gender and Orient on the German Stage, 1647-1742

The Rhetorical Feminine: Gender and Orient on the German Stage, 1647-1742

Synopsis

The Rhetorical Feminine takes a fresh look at theatre - including the important new genre of opera - in early modern Germany. Central to this study is the relationship of the stage with ideas of order or social control. Early German school drama was designed to teach rhetoric to boys: a detail which has up to now been accepted by scholars without further questioning. This investigation focuses on how that rhetoric was used, with particular reference to ideas of the feminine and of the Islamic world. Both are constructed as the potentially threatening others of early modern patriarchal Christendom. In containing the threat, the stage becomes the controllable version of the early modern theatrum mundi. In opera, the dynamic of the text is supported by music. The author has found it necessary to cross the boundary of traditional literary scholarship by looking not only at the libretti, but also at the rhetoric of the score. The suggestion here is not that the construction of alterity is an isolated phenomenon in early modern Germany; men have always used their relative monopoly of the arts for self-definition. While feminist scholarship has tended to concentrate on the relevance of this for women, it has also pertained to non-Christians or `the Orient', which is often portrayed as analogous with the feminine.

Excerpt

In 1995 I submitted an earlier form of this study as a thesis to the University of Oxford. Special thanks are due to my supervisor, who was also an inspiring mentor: Dr Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly of Exeter College. Emma Dillon, Niall Livingstone, and Mark Taplin were sources of interdisciplinary advice and support.

My research on opera in Hamburg and Wolfenbfittel was facilitated by a generous scholarship from the fvs foundation of the late Alfred Töpfer. Christ Church, Oxford, later supported me academically and financially as a Senior Scholar.

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