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Appropriations of Shakespeare's King Lear in Three Modern North American Novels

Lindhé, Anna LU (2010)
Abstract
This thesis examines the creative appropriation of Shakespeare in theory and practice. It is based on close readings of King Lear alongside three appropriations of the play in works of fiction by three North American women writers: Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, and Margaret Atwood. The aim is to demonstrate how a ‘palimpsestic’ reading, i.e. a reading in which the reader oscillates between ‘pre-text’ and ‘post-text’, engenders ethical effects. While previous studies have mainly focused on acts of appropriation as personal or political, this study understands literary appropriation as an ethical process.

Chapter one outlines a methodology which takes the reader into consideration as an active part in the dynamic process of... (More)
This thesis examines the creative appropriation of Shakespeare in theory and practice. It is based on close readings of King Lear alongside three appropriations of the play in works of fiction by three North American women writers: Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, and Margaret Atwood. The aim is to demonstrate how a ‘palimpsestic’ reading, i.e. a reading in which the reader oscillates between ‘pre-text’ and ‘post-text’, engenders ethical effects. While previous studies have mainly focused on acts of appropriation as personal or political, this study understands literary appropriation as an ethical process.

Chapter one outlines a methodology which takes the reader into consideration as an active part in the dynamic process of appropriation. Instead of emphasizing the successor’s debt to his or her precursor – a debt that can be either denied or affirmed – the method proposed here foregrounds the successor’s commitment to his or her own recipient: the reader, rethinking the respective obligations and responsibilities conventionally attached to precursors and successors. Above all, it moves away from the question that dominates appropriation studies to date: whether Shakespearean appropriations embody oppositional or celebratory dimensions.

The four ensuing chapters examine what the post-texts do to affect or alter the reader’s reception of King Lear. Chapter two shows how Smiley’s A Thousand Acres (1991) attempts to halt judgmental reactions to Lear’s ‘bad’ daughters – Goneril/Ginny and Regan/Rose – by transferring a degree of guilt and responsibility back to Lear/Larry. Chapters three and four examine how censorious reactions to Cordelia are qualified by Tyler’s and Atwood’s respective appropriations of King Lear: Ladder of Years (1995) and Cat’s Eye (1988). These two chapters investigate what happens when a daughter is made to pay back a father’s ‘interest’ and when she finds herself unable to do so. Both show that the expectations of daughterly debt/returns have serious consequences for selfhood, marriage (Ladder of Years), and sisterhood (Cat’s Eye). Chapter five studies all three novels in the light of a motif they all share: the fall into nothingness. By ‘gender-switching’, i.e. by moving the female characters into the position of Lear, the novels create something out of ‘nothing’ in King Lear: a redemptive pattern which helps to ensure that Shakespeare’s tragedy continues to offer something for everyone, not least for the female reader. (Less)
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author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Vargish, Thomas, United States Airforce Academy, Colorado Springs, USA
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Appropriation in literature, appropriation of Shakespeare, ethics and literature, Harold Bloom, Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, A Thousand Acres, Ladder of Years, Cat's Eye, King Lear
pages
185 pages
publisher
Lunds universitet
defense location
Hörsalen, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund
defense date
2010-10-02 10:15
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f535c0d9-6472-4095-bf03-d4499ce2d36b (old id 1666929)
date added to LUP
2010-09-03 16:31:52
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:07
@misc{f535c0d9-6472-4095-bf03-d4499ce2d36b,
  abstract     = {This thesis examines the creative appropriation of Shakespeare in theory and practice. It is based on close readings of King Lear alongside three appropriations of the play in works of fiction by three North American women writers: Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, and Margaret Atwood. The aim is to demonstrate how a ‘palimpsestic’ reading, i.e. a reading in which the reader oscillates between ‘pre-text’ and ‘post-text’, engenders ethical effects. While previous studies have mainly focused on acts of appropriation as personal or political, this study understands literary appropriation as an ethical process. <br/><br>
Chapter one outlines a methodology which takes the reader into consideration as an active part in the dynamic process of appropriation. Instead of emphasizing the successor’s debt to his or her precursor – a debt that can be either denied or affirmed – the method proposed here foregrounds the successor’s commitment to his or her own recipient: the reader, rethinking the respective obligations and responsibilities conventionally attached to precursors and successors. Above all, it moves away from the question that dominates appropriation studies to date: whether Shakespearean appropriations embody oppositional or celebratory dimensions. <br/><br>
The four ensuing chapters examine what the post-texts do to affect or alter the reader’s reception of King Lear. Chapter two shows how Smiley’s A Thousand Acres (1991) attempts to halt judgmental reactions to Lear’s ‘bad’ daughters – Goneril/Ginny and Regan/Rose – by transferring a degree of guilt and responsibility back to Lear/Larry. Chapters three and four examine how censorious reactions to Cordelia are qualified by Tyler’s and Atwood’s respective appropriations of King Lear: Ladder of Years (1995) and Cat’s Eye (1988). These two chapters investigate what happens when a daughter is made to pay back a father’s ‘interest’ and when she finds herself unable to do so. Both show that the expectations of daughterly debt/returns have serious consequences for selfhood, marriage (Ladder of Years), and sisterhood (Cat’s Eye). Chapter five studies all three novels in the light of a motif they all share: the fall into nothingness. By ‘gender-switching’, i.e. by moving the female characters into the position of Lear, the novels create something out of ‘nothing’ in King Lear: a redemptive pattern which helps to ensure that Shakespeare’s tragedy continues to offer something for everyone, not least for the female reader.},
  author       = {Lindhé, Anna},
  keyword      = {Appropriation in literature,appropriation of Shakespeare,ethics and literature,Harold Bloom,Jane Smiley,Anne Tyler,Margaret Atwood,A Thousand Acres,Ladder of Years,Cat's Eye,King Lear},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {185},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0x85a1b28)},
  title        = {Appropriations of Shakespeare's King Lear in Three Modern North American Novels},
  year         = {2010},
}