Embracing the process

January 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had not even realized that my last post was before New Year’s–and so many interesting things happened then, as well. I don’t want to dwell on those events because my current post is on something of much greater import, but I’ll offer a recap for those desperate to know what I did. (I built it up so nicely two posts previous!)

New Year’s Eve: we had some people over for a pot-luck dinner and dessert fest. It was amazing. We played Apples to Apples because that’s the most fun game in the world, and then we watched some idiot jump his bike across a bridge. After the East coast New Year, we changed the channel to Dick Clark (with Ryan Seacrest) and started the countdown for the Central timezone New Year. I was fairly drunk by the time everyone left our house.

New Year’s Day: hungover and feeling awful, I cooked breakfast for our guests who would be coming over to watch our team’s bowl game. Guests also brought with them some breakfast items as well as their own hangovers–we were quite a bunch. Once we cracked out the mimosas, however, people started to perk up.

January 2nd: Robert and I went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with a couple of our married friends. The show was brilliant, and we all had a great time. If you ever have the opportunity to see TSO live, I would strongly recommend it. (Who knew violinists could headbang and powerslide all while playing their instruments beautifully?) After the show, we ate at the Melting Pot. Robert and I had never been before, and we were not disappointed. We still talk about how wonderful the food and atmosphere were (to say nothing of the company!). I think our first married New Year’s together was my absolute favorite New Year’s ever.

They say that whatever you were doing in the New Year is what you will be doing for the rest of the year. We were with our best friends, having the time of our lives. I think this is a good plan for 2010.

On to the subject of greater import.

I neglected my blog for the past several weeks for one reason and one reason only: I’ve been working quickly and consistently on my dissertation. I am still in the prospectus stage, which means I’m not quite out of the gate yet, but I have decided to embrace the process itself. Who says I have to wait until after the prospectus has been approved to begin on Chapter One? In fact, that’s not the way I enjoy writing at all; instead, I am the kind of writer who starts in the middle and will work her way out toward the beginning and end after all the important bits have been said. (How can I introduce something that I’ve never written before? It makes much more sense to write the introduction after the rest of the document [or a great majority of it] so that I know precisely what I’m introducing.)

For those curious, my dissertation takes a look at the early modern English stage practice of transvestism (dressing boys as girls) and potential enacted homosexuality (stage romances between the transvestite and the male actor), and asks questions of influence. When, in 1660, Charles II returned to England and reopened the theatres, finally allowing women to act legally (something he witnessed in France and found appropriate, not whorish), the boys who used to wear dresses stopped wearing dresses and wore the clothes of male youths. Certainly we are not to believe that simply lifting the ban on female actors solves the problem and eradicates the gender confusion (or “trouble,” to borrow from Butler) on stage. I want to consider how these complicated implications have influenced our own interpretations of both modern stage in general as well as modern staged representations of the Male in specific. While a cross-gender cast today may elicit responses from the audience that such practice leads to issues of homosexuality, this thought would not have been prevalent in early modern England. Homosexuality simply did not exist to them as it does to us. Women and children (of both sexes) were the same. A socioeconomic (maybe even sociosexual) status made the man, not his clothes nor his penis. A child with a penis (or even a young adult with a penis or a full-grown man with a penis) who did not exert full authority and ownership over his household (and therefore over other people) was a woman, not a man. Therefore, I would conclude, a full-grown male actor (who owns a house, has a wife and children, perhaps a servant or two) who kisses on stage the transvestite boy actor (who is merely an apprentice at best) is not committing an act of homosexuality. The boy is woman, despite his biology.

We shifted somewhere. Maybe it was when Charles II allowed women on stage, maybe that is when England awoke to its own staged perversions. (I should note this was an anomaly in England. In Spain, they also believed that a female on stage was performing an act of whoredom. So they just hired prostitutes to act out the women’s parts.) But, my dissertation is only to be at max a 300-page tome…I don’t have the space to track down the true origins of stage homophobia in England (which would have naturally spread to theatre in the United States). I will instead be applying the notion of masculinity from early modern England to modern stage productions. My goal is to add a level of nuance to our current notions of masculinity–the pendulum swung (rightly so) to such an extreme that while notions of femininity were fluctuating and adding levels of nuance, masculinity suffered from simplification. I want to push the pendulum back toward the middle (not to either extreme) in order to create a more balanced conversation of gender identities. Males, despite the lampooning and caricatures they’ve suffered in at least the past century, are a much more nuanced and subtle sex than they’ve been given credit for. They are overdue for recognition of their subtleties, and now is the time.

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