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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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Staging Slander and Gender in Early Modern England

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Ina HabermannFriedrich Alexander Universitaet, Erlangen, Germany

ISBN13: 9780754633846
ISBN: 0754633845
Published: April 2005
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Ltd
Format: Hardback
Price: Out of print



Though the historical evidence of slander and defamation increasingly attracts the attention of early modern cultural historians and literary scholars, much of the current critical debate has failed to take into account the diverse signifying structures in which slander is embedded. In this book, Ina Habermann examines oral defamation - the negative fashioning of others - as both a specific mode of communication and a symbolic practice, paying particular attention to the inherent theatricality of the ""slander triangle"", which requires an accuser, a victim and an audience. Presented as an exciting chapter in the history of culture, this study traces slander in language and rhetoric, social interaction and the law, literature and authorship as well as religion, subjectivity and the body.;Looking at sexual slander in particular, Habermann shows how femininity was fashioned between praise and slander and how the ""slandered heroine"" came to embody an influential fantasy of femininity, which points to the importance of slander for a cultural history of gender and gender relations. Habermann discusses masculine authorship and male institutional agency but also makes audible female voices in the discourse of slander, exploring, for instance, the strategies of authors like Mary Sidney, Elizabeth Cary and Mary Wroth to resignify the gendering of defamation. Slander thus appears as a mode of social interaction that crucially involves the psychic life and subjectivity of those implicated in it.;Habermann examines a wide range of texts including treatises on slander and the law, focusing on drama as a privileged site for the negotiation of slander. Discussing such authors as Shakespeare, Webster and Jonson, she highlights the link between early modern legal ethics and contemporary theatre, tracing theatrical patterns of legal thought and showing how drama and the law mutually influence each other. Drama thus emerges as an instrument of poetic inquiry into the social life of the community. In its focus on malicious intent as a crucial ingredient of oral defamation, the theatre offers a key to the nature, the meaning and the cultural significance of slander in early modern England.

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Contents:
Introduction - Tongues of fire; How to do things with words (""Romeo and Juliet"", treatises on rhetoric); The rhetoric of slander (""Othello"", ""The Orator""); The law of slander (treatises on the law);The brokers of oral reputation (treatises on the law, ""The Devil's Law Case"", ""A Cure for a Cuckold"", ""The Merry Wives of Windsor""); Femininity between praise and slander (""Il Pastor Fido"", ""The Devil Is an Ass"", ""Love's Victory""); ""The Poisoned Tongue"" (treatises on slander, ""Lingua""); The tongues of Pentecost (treatises on the tongue, Mary Sidney's psalm translation); The slandered heroine (""Othello"", ""The Tragedy of Mariam"").