America and the perverse Shakespearean imagination

Hamilton, Paul (2015). America and the perverse Shakespearean imagination. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

[img] Hamilton15PhD.pdf
Text - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 1 January 2025.

Download (1MB) | Request a copy


I argue that each of the five American authors in my study of the antebellum era in American literature had dissident responses to Shakespeare’s perverse sexual energies. These reader responses took the following forms, with significant consequences for American history:

1.Conversion As Perversion. This strategy, demonstrated by Emerson and Whitman, employs the structure of perversion by affirming, in Emerson, the healthy imagination, in Whitman, healthy sexuality. In doing so, it commits itself to a confident rhetoric of health that evades and so magnifies anxiety about perverse sexual disease. It attempts to “convert” the reader to its view of the healthy imagination as a way to ward off the perversion it sees everywhere.

2.Perversion As Conversion. This strategy, employed by Hawthorne and Melville, initiates a descent into the terrors of the perverse imagination as a means of exorcising it and reconciling the individual to the consolations of the hearth and home of middle-class American society.

3.Perversion As Subversion. This is the strategy employed by Dickinson in her tense, dramatic lyrics. It employs Augustinian non-being in order to subvert progressive American projections of meaning into the future through a form that I call “perverse reading.” It eschews all identities, and remains menacing, dangerous, and, in my view, profoundly ethical.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year