Women and Race in Early Modern Texts by Joyce Green MacDonald
By Joyce Green MacDonald
Joyce eco-friendly MacDonald discusses the hyperlinks among women's racial, sexual, and civic identities in early sleek texts. She examines the shortage of African girls in English performs of the 16th and 17th centuries, the racial identification of the ladies within the drama and likewise that of the ladies who watched and occasionally wrote the performs. The assurance additionally comprises texts from the past due fourteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, by way of, between others, Shakespeare, Jonson, Davenant, the Countess of Pembroke and Aphra Behn.
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Extra resources for Women and Race in Early Modern Texts
For his friend Lucilius, Antony’s love has transformed him into the image of his ancestor Hercules who, bewitched by Omphale, “Slept in hir lapp, hir bosome kist and kiste,/With base unseemly service bought her love,/Spinning at distaffe, and with sinewy hand/Winding on spindles threde, in maides attire” (L). Women and Race in Early Modern Texts lips, “beamie” eyes like “Sunnes,” and “faire haire” of “ﬁne and ﬂaming golde” (I). The Petrarchan whiteness of the body which will reclaim Antony at the moment of her own death is the enabling vehicle of Pembroke’s bold reimagination of Cleopatra.
Lefkowitz characterizes Haley’s discussion of Cleopatra’s race in particular and more general assertions about the roles played by black people in the ancient world as “myths,” mistakenly regarded as harmless by some of her colleagues who “have argued that teaching that Cleopatra is black can do no harm, particularly if it helps to instill pride in students who have been mistreated by the majority society” (). I don’t quite know what to make of the present tense here (“Cleopatra is black”), which would seem to contradict the distinction Lefkowitz elsewhere insists on maintaining between ancient and modern meanings, but I do note her implicit reduction of all attempts to reconstruct racial identities in past societies to a kind of social therapy administered to students by well-meaning, if deluded, professors.
Taylor sees race as almost mechanistically determined, a bodily essence controlling who can and cannot become civilized. Before I go any farther here, I want to state that I am asserting no contact whatever between Mary Lefkowitz and American Renaissance. Lefkowitz attributes what she considers the intellectually bankrupt doctrine of Afrocentrism as applied to the classics to mistaken apprehensions of race’s historical existence and nature, while Taylor and American Renaissance believe that racial pluralism will result not in mere intellectual bankruptcy, but in the virtual extinction of European culture and the white race.