Enacting the untranslatable: the sociolinguistic situatedness of Shakespearean emotions

Bartelle, Michael Joel (2022). Enacting the untranslatable: the sociolinguistic situatedness of Shakespearean emotions. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis explores the phenomenon of emotion in different cultural contexts, through the lens of Shakespearean performance. In particular, it investigates how differences in language may reflect, or even shape, how feelings in the playhouse are experienced, expressed, and emphasised. This involves the comparison of emotion concepts in early modern English to twenty-first-century English, as well as to untranslatable concepts in Russian, French, and German. The INTRODUCTION serves as an overview of the importance of both translation scholarship and emotion studies as they relate to Shakespeare and early modern England. CHAPTER ONE introduces the philosophical, scientific, and linguistic groundwork that will permit a confident exploration of the situated nature of emotions on the Shakespearean stage. In particular, this chapter presents a theoretical paradigm known as enaction, as well as the methodological tools of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage. CHAPTER TWO focuses on the experience of lovesickness as it pertains to the character of Mariana in Measure for Measure. The chapter begins with a study of the idea of love melancholy and the many ways it was considered a serious illness in Renaissance England, and then examines how twenty-first-century productions of the play navigate the dramaturgical implications of Mariana’s emotive improvisation. CHAPTER TWO then compares current English-language notions of lovesickness with the Russian untranslatable concept тоска (toska), and looks at how Russian productions of the play have embodied this emotion. CHAPTER THREE looks at Othello, through the lens of an emotion we tend to think of as positive: joy. However, in exploring the early modern English attitudes toward this particular feeling, this chapter uncovers the interrelatedness of Renaissance England’s concepts of joy and death. CHAPTER THREE then turns to an examination of joy’s French-language analogue: joie. An analysis of French translations and productions of Othello will show how joie carries surprisingly different connotations from the “joy” that native English speakers know. CHAPTER FOUR explores the concept of fear in Hamlet. The first half of the chapter examines the neuroscience behind the claim that fear is a universal human emotion, before demonstrating how fear in Renaissance England was bound up with concepts of the afterlife. The second half explores the German-language concept of Angst, and analyses how this emotion has coloured German theatre-makers’ relationship with Hamlet. The CODA looks more closely at the practical, theatrical implications of the disparity between the emotion concepts that emerged from Shakespeare’s specific time and those of today. In particular, the CODA outlines a means by which actors can use the Natural Semantic Metalanguage to deconstruct some of Shakespeare’s emotions, which may be considered “untranslatable” today, and synthesise them into a culturally relevant mode of expression.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Barry Jackson Fund, Richard Stapley Trust
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12426


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