Conceiving Race in Titus Andronicus
Monday, January 14 | 2PM
Room 8301 | CUNY GC
In this talk, I present an overview of my current project, Queer Pregnancy in Shakespeare’s Plays, as well as work from my first chapter, “Conception.” In the early modern period, medical and gynecological texts discuss the imaginative power of pregnant women to shape an unborn child—in particular, as the images above demonstrate, the child’s hue. These texts have yet to be put in conversation with Titus Andronicus and its source material, however, because the “tawny,” mixed-race child Tamora carries and delivers is read as upholding the Aristotelian model of generation, one that Theseus alludes to in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he tells Hermia that her father is the one who “composed [her] beauties,” that she is but “a form in wax / By him imprinted.” Alternatively, I argue that Tamora’s “insatiate and luxurious” desire for Aaron—female jouissance—shapes the child’s hue as much as Aaron’s paternity, and is key to understanding how miscegenation is represented in the play. From “counsel-keeping” caves to competing conception narratives, this talk attends to the bodies in Titus Andronicus that “disdaineth bounds”; unexpected family formations; and how contemporary queer and critical race theory informs Shakespeare’s representations of pregnancy. In turn, I demonstrate how Titus Andronicus challenges our continued attempts to mark and trace definitive borders around bodies and desires.