John Webster's 'Dismal Tragedy' The Duchess of Malfi Reconsidered
  • John Webster's 'Dismal Tragedy' The Duchess of Malfi Reconsidered
  • John Webster's 'Dismal Tragedy' The Duchess of Malfi Reconsidered


John Webster's 'Dismal Tragedy' The Duchess of Malfi Reconsidered

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Secrets, lies, dismembering, incest, madness, apparitions, mental torture, lycanthropia, brutal murders: there is little that The Duchess of Malfi (1614) shies away from, inflicting on its spectators a whirlwind of conflicting passions and emotions. Webster's drama has been labelled as baroque, grotesque, mannerist, gothic or feminist. Against Bosola, the figure of the malcontent who also embodies the typical early modern overreacher, the Duchess stands as a symbol of female transgression before she is eventually crushed by evil and male power. Bloody sensationalism should therefore not eclipse what some critics saw as a drama of knowledge.

In Delio's concluding speech, Webster's irony is at its peak when he encourages his audience to 'make noble use / Of this great ruin’ and seems to present the play as a vehicle for moral instruction, defining in a final twist an ethics based on an 'integrity of life’. A jarring masterpiece of Jacobean theatre, The Duchess of Malfi reinvents the genre of the revenge tragedy, and beyond the Renaissance concept of tragedy, it explores the construction of gender, the class structure of a changing society and the complex interlacing of desire, violence and cruel laughter.

Following the recent inclusion of The Duchess of Malfi in the Agrégation syllabus in France (2019-2020), this volume is meant to provide new perspectives on the play, examining questions relating to politics, gender, aesthetics, textuality, materiality and performance. Its various chapters highlight the richness and complexity of the tragedy, reflecting recent critical trends in early modern drama studies.

Sophie Chiari

Sophie Chiari est professeur de littérature anglaise (XVIe-XVIIe siècles) à l'Université Clermont Auvergne, membre de l'IHRIM (UMR 5317) et Directrice de la Maison des sciences de l'homme de Clermont-Ferrand. Elle a récemment dirigé Spectacular Science, Technology and Superstition in the Age of Shakespeare avec Mickaël Popelard (Edinburgh University Press, 2017) et Freedom and Censorship in Early Modern English Literature (Routledge, 2018). Sa dernière monographie s'intitule Shakespeare's Representation of Weather, Climate and Environment (Edinburgh University Press, 2018).

En savoir plus sur Sophie Chiari

Sophie Lemercier-Goddard

Sophie Lemercier-Goddard est maître de conférences à l'ENS de Lyon en littérature de la Renaissance et membre de l'IHRIM (UMR 5317). Ses recherches en cours portent sur les questions de traduction, d'identité et sur l'écriture de l'empire dans les récits d'exploration et de colonisation britanniques de la Première Modernité. Elle est l'auteur de plusieurs articles sur le voyage de circumnavigation de Francis Drake ainsi que sur les récits des explorateurs anglais à la recherche du passage du Nord-Ouest (H. Gilbert, M. Frobisher, H. Hudson).

En savoir plus sur Sophie Lemercier-Goddard

General Introduction
Anne-Valérie Dulac (Sorbonne Université)
Sophie Chiari (Université Clermont Auvergne)
Sophie Lemercier-Goddard (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon)

Part I: Looking Backwards: Source, Performance and Edition

1. Delio, "the partaker [of great courtiers'] natures"
The Duchess of Malfi and its Sources in Context
Anna Demoux (Université Clermont Auvergne)

2. "[T]he spirit of greatness or of woman"
The Duchess of Malfi in the Repertoires of her First Players
Roberta Barker (Dalhousie University)

3. “Mine eyes dazzle”
Editing The Duchess of Malfi
Jane Kingsley-Smith (University of Roehampton, London)

4. Theatre, Art, the Woman and the Wolf
Revisiting The Duchess of Malfi
Dympna Callaghan (Syracuse University)

Part II: Looking Outside: Money, Travel and the Weather

5. “Purchased honor”
Economic Expediency in Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
Eike Kronshage (Chemnitz University of Technology)

6. Going Places
Hauntings and Mobilities in The Duchess of Malfi
Sophie Lemercier-Goddard (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon)

7. “The work of heaven” in The Duchess of Malfi
Sophie Chiari (Université Clermont Auvergne)

Part III : Looking Inside: The World of the Flesh

8. Seeking the Female Body
The Duchess and Ferdinand in Canine Skins
Misako Takahashi (University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo)

9. “Produce the bodies”
Wolves in Webster and Shakespeare's Theatre of Exhumation
Joseph Kidney (Stanford University)

10. Reversions
Domestic Ecologies in The Duchess of Malfi
Wendy Wall (Northwestern University)

Part IV: Looking Forwards: Optics and Mathematics

11. Diamonds or Pearls?
Doubling the Duchess
Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam University)

12. Webster’s Mathematical Imagination
Geometry in The Duchess of Malfi
Mickaël Popelard (Université de Caen-Normandie)

13. Webster’s camera obscura
in The Duchess of Malfi
François Laroque (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3)

Discussing The Duchess
A conversation led by Anne‑Valérie Dulac (Sorbonne Université)

Mettre en scène La Duchesse en France
Conversation avec Anne‑Laure Liégeois
Entretien mené par Sophie Chiari et Sophie Lemercier-Goddard

General Bibliography
John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi
A Comprehensive Bibliography
José Ramón Díaz Fernández (Universidad de Málaga)


Détails du produit

Sophie Chiari Sophie Lemercier-Goddard
Dialogues des Modernités
Date de parution
23 mai 2019
Nombre de pages
356 pages
16 x 24 cm

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