Tag Archives: Twelfth Night

Shakespeare Would Support Transgenders

As Donald Trump rolls back transgender protections, it’s worth going back to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which honors the sense that many have (not just transgender individuals) that they have the other gender hidden away beneath their exteriors.

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The Magic Spell Cast by Stories

In “1Q84” Murakami describes novels as holding out the promise to solve our problems only we can’t quite make them out.

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Shakespeare Understood Trumpism

According to Adam Gopnik, Shakespeare would have understood the rise of Donald Trump better than we do today. Whereas we see him as a historical oddity, Shakespeare would have seen him as the kind of evil that has always resided within humankind.

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In Defense of The Merchant of Venice

Percy Shelley believes that great art transcends the prejudices of its time, even when it is cloaked in them. If he is right, then “Merchant of Venice” is less of a problem play than many people consider it.

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Shakespeare Was Malvolio

Recent research shows how much of a social climber Shakespeare was. The knowledge gives us new insight into characters like Malvolio and Othello.

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Defending the Canon vs. New Attacks

Yale English majors have been complaining about requiring them to study canonical writers. Here’s is why they are wrong.

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Stories Have Always Opened Up the Future

An anthropologist argues that human beings took over the world because they had the ability to compose fictions. Literature continues to point the way forward for us as a species.

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Christie as Prufrock & Other Lit Allusions

Political pundits have been turning to literature to talk about the GOP primaries. This past week saw citations of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll, and Richard Adams (“Watership Down”).

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A Cosmic Theory of Literature

My attempt at an overarching theory of literature and its place in human history and human progress.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Rand (Ayn), Shakespeare (William), Sidney (Sir Philip), Terence | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Can Lit Also Be a Force for Evil? A Debate

The classics are capable to doing great good but can they also do harm? Even as they powerfully open up the mind to new possibilities, can they also close it down? A debate.

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The Bard Endorsed Same Sex Marriage

In “Twelfth Night,” 400 years before Obergefell v. Hodges, Shakespeare dreamed of same sex marriage. He would have been celebrating Friday after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage.

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10 Memorable Poetic Pick-Up Lines

10 memorable pick-up lines from poetic greats. Try them at a bar near you.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Behn (Aphra), Donne (John), Herrick (Robert), Marvell (Andrew), Montagu (Lady Mary Wortley), Rostand (Edmond de), Shakespeare (William), Wilmot (John) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gaga Feminism & 12th Night

“Gaga feminism” is a playful challenge to conventional social definitions. Shakespeare can be seen as writing “Twelfth Night” in the spirit of gaga feminism.

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Twelfth Night and the End of Carnival

Twelfth Night in New Orleans, as in Shakespeare’s play, seems to be about carnival time winding down.

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The Bard as Couples Counselor

Shakespeare charts the way to new kinds of relationships in his cross-dressing comedies.

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Cruz Comes Out, the Bard Would Approve

Boxer Orlando Cruz has just come out, bringing to mind Shakespeare’s hyper-masculine gay characters.

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Reading for Fun, the Best Education

In “Northanger Abbey,” Jane Austen advocates the ideal way to raise one’s kids: encourage them to read good literature and they will learn the life lessons that they need.

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Viola, Lost in the Friend Zone

If literature can change our lives, then there should be something in the play that would help get these women out of their friend zones. Imagine Twelfth Night reframed as a “Dear Abby” column dispensing relationship advice to young adults.

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Bullying in Twelfth Night

Although I’ve been teaching for over 30 years, students continue to provide new insights into works that I thought I knew. Sophomore Wick Eisenberg did so recently with a Twelfth Night essay in which he examined an issue that has become a national concern: bullying.

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The Bard’s Business Advice

Later today I’m going to be interviewed, along with my son Darien, by Boomer Alley Radio.  As producer Sharon Glassman described it to me, this is “a weekly hour-long show of upbeat, useful information that airs on the CBS news affiliate in LA, across Colorado and nationally via podcast.” Finding a post I had written […]

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The Bard Weighs in on the Election

One curious aspect of this very loud election season has been that the two largest political rallies were staged by entertainers: Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally of August 29 and John Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” this past Saturday. A rightwing pundit and two liberal comedians (one of them who […]

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Republicans Need a Shakespearean Fool

William Dyce, “King Lear and the Fool in the Storm” (1851)         There’s been a lot of talk about bubbles in recent years.  Tiger Woods’ bubble, which cut him off from his fellow human beings, may have led to some of his self-destructive behavior.  The Vatican has been living within a bubble for a while, unable […]

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Crossing the Great Gender Divide

In last Friday’s post on Twelfth Night, I talked about how Shakespeare uses cross-dressing to acknowledge that men and women have dimensions to them that are not acknowledged by the standard male and female categories.  I understood this about the play at an early age.  In a past post on Twelfth Night, I describe how […]

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The Temporary Transvestite Comedy

Brown and Lemmon    Film Friday Sometimes my different classes overlap in interesting ways.  I am currently teaching Twelfth Night in my British Literature survey class and Some Like It Hot in my senior-level film genre class.  Thanks to an article on the Billy Wilder classic by film scholar Chris Straayer, I can now label both […]

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The Challenges of Asking Her Out

 In a discussion of Twelfth Night last Friday, my British literature survey class discussed the challenges of a first date.  The scene that sparked our conversation is the one where Viola, passing as a man, carries Orsino’s love proposal to Olivia.  Of course Olivia falls in love with Viola instead. We started talking about Orsino’s decision to […]

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Less Sexually Liberating for Women

Jean Honore Fragonard, The Bolt (1776)   Yesterday I wrote about Aphra Behn giving us images of women’s sexual liberation in her 1677 play The Rover.  But there is a dark undertone that differentiates the play from male-authored Restoration comedies.  Behn’s play may not be as polished as the plays of William Wycherley and George Etherege.  […]

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Striving to Emulate Little Lord Fauntleroy

Children, when they start developing a sense of self, discover that there is a preset gender program they are expected to conform to. For some this is not a problem, but others feel constrained by their assigned designation. It’s not always that girls want to be boys and boys girls. Sometimes they just want to […]

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Biology and Poetry Love Gender Diversity

After a week of discussing how literature can help us handle anger and violence, I return to Twelfth Night and the slippery issue of gender identity. This too is grabbing national headlines these days (what a time we find ourselves in!) as Americans battle over same sex marriage, “don’t ask don’t tell,” and other concerns […]

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Shakespeare’s Cross-Dressing Fantasies

When I was a child, I was fascinated by works containing characters of ambiguous gender. Specifically, I was drawn to images of boys who either looked like girls or who were, unbeknownst to them, actually girls. I was also drawn to images of girls (and women) who passed themselves off as guys. The prevailing culture […]

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