Distracted Subjects: Madness and Gender in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture, and: Stages of Dismemberment: The Fragmented Body in Late Medieval and Early Modern Drama (Review)
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One of the most vexing challenges facing students of early modern theatre revolves around the question of influence. To what extent did the theatre of the period reflect existing cultural norms? To what extent did it challenge them? How did the early modern theatre help shape the development of cultural attitudes toward everything from gender and racial difference to the semiotics of body, mind, and soul? Two new books on the period wade into this territory: Carol Thomas Neely's Distracted Subjects explores the relationship between theatrical production and the conceptualization of early modern madness and healing, while Margaret Owens's Stages of Dismemberment traces the theatre's influence on the shaping of the post-Reformation body. Both books work primarily through the lens of a rigorous, cultural materialist historiography, and both will be stimulating reading for anyone interested in body theory, early modern studies, or Shakespeare and his contemporaries.