Psychoanalysis, race, and sexual difference in Renaissance literature: The case of three Shakespeare plays, "Othello", "The Merchant of Venice", and "The Tempest"
Jang, Seon Young
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This dissertation explores the notion of race through sexual difference in the realm of the Renaissance with an analysis of Shakespeare's three plays, Othello, The Merchant of Venice , and The Tempest . My introductory discussion about new historicism and psychoanalysis, how differently both deal with the question of the subject (author), the text, and history, leads to my main interest in the Renaissance and race. Reviewing the question of whether the interrogation of race in the Renaissance is anachronistic or not, of why the Renaissance notion of race often wavers between culture and nature among Renaissance critics, and of what the easy association of the racialized or the colonized subject with the woman reveals, I suggest a certain psychoanalytic analysis of Renaissance race, which can be stated as a new short-circuit(potentiality) between psychoanalysis and Renaissance race. This short-circuit between psychoanalysis and Renaissance race is bolstered by the theoretical explication concerning psychoanalysis and race that I trace through the psychoanalytic notion of sexual difference, especially, Lacan's formulas of sexuation. This procedure shows first that race, like sexual difference, concerns the 'real' or the 'jouissance' which cannot be reduced to either nature (biology) or culture. Thus, race like sex, from the psychoanalytic point of view, partakes in the subject question - the subject's void or the lack: in psychoanalysis, race and sex are elaborated as drawing out ontological difference--the subject's minimal difference from itself. This association of race and sex with ontological difference extends to my second line of thought about psychoanalysis and race by linking race and sex to two ways of failure on the masculine side and the feminine side in Lacan's formulas of sexuation. This thought examines how the masculine side can be related with sexism and racism, and how the feminine side could offer its alternative ethics against the masculine side's forming sexism and racism. In the later part of the dissertation, I expand and deepen my former interest in psychoanalysis and Renaissance race, and its subsequent theoretical explication about a short-circuit between psychoanalysis and race, through the analysis of three of Shakespeare's plays, Othello, The Merchant of Venice , and The Tempest . This analysis of Shakespeare plays enlarges and intensifies the short-circuit between psychoanalysis and race into three realms: racial gaze and shame in Othello : Shylock, "I am not well" in the realm of universal singularity in The Merchant of Venice : and Prospero's neighbor--Caliban in The Tempest . Rather than extending my interest in psychoanalysis and race in only one direction, I try to show a certain potentiality for how psychoanalysis and race can be explicated with many layers of contemporary issues that bridge the subject question and the political question. In this respect, this analysis of Shakespeare's plays is not only crucial in increasing our understanding regarding the Renaissance and race, but also is propitious in that we can rethink contemporary political issues through the reading of Shakespeare plays.