‘Shakespeare and Narration: Feminism, Structure, History’
By Dr Haleemah Ziarab
Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Haleemah Ziarab
CIRCL PhD student Haleemah Ziarab passed her viva on 09-11-2022 with her PhD thesis on ‘Shakespeare and Narration: Feminism, Structure, History’. Supervisor: Dr Neil Cocks; External Examiner: Dr Louise Tondeur of the Open University; Internal Examiner: Dr Sue Walsh.
Abstract of thesis
Since its first publication, Shakespeare’s Othello has resulted in both controversy and widely different opinions. Within these different responses, there is repeated interest in certain ideas of identity; identity as formed through the identity of others; identity as supplemental; identity as antagonistic. This thesis fundamentally turns on the question of the limits of the problematisation of identity. What must be in place for this difficulty or collapse to be staged?
One of the most repeated ideas in Othello criticism is that it problematises the binary. Othello, black, successful, performative and content is contrasted against Iago, manipulative, malcontent, white; yet in such a way that the lines between the two are always questioned. Through a series of close readings of Othello, The Taming of the Shrew and their criticism, therefore, this thesis considers how the oppositions often called upon by critics to make sense of Shakespeare’s work might echo what Othello has been understood to say about how identities are constituted through such oppositions.
To this end, this thesis begins with a consideration of the opposition between ‘black’ and ‘white’ through readings of texts by Richard Dyer and Frantz Fanon. It then engages with the critical works of Chris Fitter, Nicholas Royle, Roger Chartier and Peter Stallybrass, questioning the structural stability of the stage/page dichotomy. It also considers ideas of history through scrutiny of the opposition between text and context in Alan Sinfield and Jerry Brotton’s interventions into Othello criticism. This thesis concludes with a reading of repetition in Othello and the claims of William Empson, T.S. Eliot and Thomas Moisan. Drawing on what Shoshana Felman terms an ‘uncanny reading effect’, and culminating with a reading of Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, this thesis challenges appeals to distinct boundaries between Shakespeare’s Othello and critical and literary responses to it, including my own.