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Interrogating ‘Shakespop’: the Politics of Tasteful Pop Culture

Laboni Bhattacharya

Department of English, Hindu College, University of Delhi. ORCID: 0000-0002-9758-3235. Email: laboni.bhattacharya@gmail.com

Volume 9, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n1.08

Received February 24, 2017; Revised April 14, 2017; Accepted April 30, 2017; Published May 7, 2017.

Abstract

This paper will explore the phenomenon of Shakespop, or pop-cultural referentiality  to Shakespeare’s work (Lanier, 2002) as a category that seemingly unites Shakespeare’s authorial legacy and high cultural values with popular forms like TV, comics, YouTube videos, etc in a transgressive manner. Some examples I analyse are the Sassy Gay Friend Youtube series, Shakespeare breath mints and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics (1989 -). I examine them as cultural objects that deploy the dynamic tension between good taste and bad, the erudite and the base. Is the vigorous appropriation and parodic inversion of Shakespeare in popular culture a genuine deconstruction of his cultural significance? A celebratory attitude would argue that postmodernity has freed Shakespeare from his high-cultural moorings. Taking up Jostein Gripsrud’s theorization of ‘double-access’, I would argue that postmodern proliferation of Shakespop  is not an inherently democratizing phenomenon, but one that conceals its origins in access, material privilege and power.

Keywords: cultural studies, popular culture, Shakespeare, double access, class privilege, cultural capital.

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Smudge on an Illuminated Manuscript: a Postcolonial Reading of Shalimar the Clown

Javaid Bhat, University of Kashmir

Abstract:

This Paper begins with Timothy Brennan’s riposte to Amir Mehmud and Sara Suleri, underlining, simultaneously, the problem of Post colonialism as described by Brennan. His rather hasty definition is used to underscore the different postcolonial propensity in Pachigam, a fictional village created by Salman Rusdie in the novel Shalimar the Clown (henceforth SC). This village is posited as hybrid, fluid, and a space marked by difference. It is a typical but not an unproblematic post colonial space, one which Brennan ignores in his categorical definition of post colonialism. Finally, the essay highlights the essentially ambiguous relationship of Pachigam, a microcosm of Kashmir, with the larger ‘postcolonial’, ‘post-imperial’ entities of India and Pakistan.

Discursive Sites of Production and Opposition: Post World War I Popular Music Scene in Britain

Samraghni Bonnerjee, Independent Researcher, Kolkata, India

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Abstract

The post World War I British music scene was varied, spanning several genres, from croon, swoon, jazz, blues, to swing – with influences both home-grown as well as imported. New dances, jazz music, and cocktail parties were continuously being imported from America, aided by the popularity of American cinema, which shaped the form of leisure activities of Britain throughout the Twenties and Thirties. However, the conservative response to these forms of music was strict, and post War society was involved with means of trespassing the restrictions and legislations. This paper intends to look at the genres of popular music and their spatial sites of performance – dance halls and ball rooms in England as well as the English colonies – as discursive sites of production and resistance.

What is Performance Studies?

Richard Schechner, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

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Because performance studies is so broad-ranging and open to new possibilities, no one can actually grasp its totality or press all its vastness and variety into a single writing book. My points of departure are my own teaching, research, artistic practice, and life experiences.

Performances are actions. As a discipline, performance studies takes actions very seriously in four ways. First, behavior is the “object of study” of performance studies. Although performance studies scholars use the “archive” extensively – what’s in books, photographs, the archaeological record, historical remains, etc. – their dedicated focus is on the “repertory,” namely, what people do in the activity of their doing it. Second, artistic practice is a big part of the performance studies project. A number of performance studies scholars are also practicing artists working in the avant-garde, in community-based performance, and elsewhere; others have mastered a variety of non-Western and Western traditional forms. The relationship between studying performance and doing performance is integral. Third, fieldwork as “participant observation” is a much-prized method adapted from anthropology and put to new uses. In anthropological fieldwork, participant observation is a way of learning about cultures other than that of the field-worker. In anthropology, for the most part, the “home culture” is Western, the “other” non-Western. But in performance studies, the “other” may be a part of one’s own culture (non-Western or Western), or even an aspect of one’s own behavior. That positions the performance studies fieldworker at a Brechtian distance, allowing for criticism, irony, and personal commentary as well as sympathetic participation. In this active way, one performs fieldwork. Taking a critical distance from the objects of study and self invites revision, the recognition that social circumstances– including knowledge itself – are not fixed, but subject to the “rehearsal process” of testing and revising. Fourth, it follows that performance studies is actively involved in social practices and advocacies. Many who practice performance studies do not aspire to ideological neutrality. In fact, a basic theoretical claim is that no approach or position is “neutral”. There is no such thing as unbiased. The challenge is to become as aware as possible of one’s own stances in relation to the positions of others – and then take steps to maintain or change positions.

Mary Magdalene or Virgin Mary: Nationalism and the Concept of Woman in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

Sayyed Rahim Moosavinia, Seyyede Maryam Hosseini & Shahid Chamran

University of Ahvaz, Iran

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Abstract

Foucault believes that people live in systems of power different from one era to another. He applies the term “power archives” to demonstrate that those inside an institute cannot be aware of the subtle ways of power imposed on them. Likewise, it would be oversimplification to think that with the apparent end of colonialism, the colonized subjects will be free from subjugating contexts. In the case of women, the situation is even worse since they are repressed by both the colonialist and the post-colonial nationalist. “Under the anxiety of the influence” of the former colonial father, the once-belittled colonial men turn to support their females in terms of their body and soul, and in this way define them inside a strictly demarcated roles of good wives, mothers, and households or vicious prostitutes. Bessie Head in her semi-autobiographical masterpiece subtly examines this idea and through her coloured protagonist, Elizabeth, attempts to re-deconstruct this notion.

Modernist Arabic Literature and the Clash of Civilizations Discourse

Saddik M. Gouhar, United Arab Emirates University

Abstract

The paper explores the incorporation of western and Christian traditions, assimilated from western culture and literature in contemporary texts, written by Muslim/Arab poets and addressed to predominantly Muslim communities, in order to disrupt the clash of civilizations narrative and underline the attempt of post WWII Arab poets, led by Badr Shaker Al-Sayyab, to be engaged into trans-cultural dialogues with western masters particularly T.S Eliot.  The paper argues that Arab poets, from ex-colonized countries, attempted to build bridges with the West   by construction of a poetics that takes as its core the cultural/religious traditions of the European colonizers.  Unlike writers from the ex-colonies, in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the West Indies who reconstruct western texts in order to subvert them, post WWII Arab poets integrated the religious heritage of what is traditionally categorized as an alien/hostile civilization into the Arab-Islamic literary canon.

Giving the Lie: Ingenuity in Subaltern Resistance in Premchand’s short story ‘The Shroud’

Somdev Banik, Government Degree College, Tripura, India

Abstract

It is not always that the subaltern cannot speak, though their authentic representation is often more pronounced in the regional literatures, rather than in Indian Writings in English. The subaltern in Premchand’s story ‘The Shroud’ not only resists the forces of exploitation, but subverts dominant social mores and traditions to gain an advantage over the master class, forcing them to shell out money which they wouldn’t have otherwise in ordinary circumstances. This glory of victory is attenuated by the realization that the subaltern in turn is also an exploiter of the woman in the family, who in life and death is used for sustaining self-interests of the males of the family. 

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