Responses to the Representation of Gender in
The Taming of the Shrew: how they play to the history of its production and reception
Although The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed comedies, audiences today often wonder what exactly they are applauding at its conclusion. Shakespeare’s comedy frequently disturbs contemporary audiences with its depiction of proud, independent Katarina, the titular shrew, who is forcefully tamed by her domineering husband, Petruchio; productions often use farce, irony, or framing devices to mitigate the extent of her subordination. Scholarship is unclear, however, whether this discomfort has arisen only recently as a feminist concern, or whether the play’s earlier audiences would have questioned the taming of an outspoken women—and whether the text of the play itself contains elements that subvert its surface story.
Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner's goal of the project is to connect contemporary responses to the play to the history of its production and reception.
Benefit to Linfield Students
This project will help participating students, Mary(Kate) McMullan and Kyra Rickards, to develop skills in three key areas.
- First, they will gain skills in literary research. Due to the nature of the English major curriculum, students seldom have the opportunity to engage in sustained primary and secondary source research until their senior project. This summer endeavor will introduce students to the major databases for scholarly journals, give them practice reviewing a critical debate in an important field, encourage them to explore little-known primary sources from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through Early English Books Online (a resource unfortunately not readily available to Linfield students), and give them practice analyzing and presenting their research. The students will also gain familiarity with two major theoretical frameworks in our field: gender studies and performance studies. These skills are directly applicable to their senior project, to presenting papers at undergraduate literature conferences, and to future graduate school training.
- Second, students will gain skills in dramatic production. By working with the Portland Shakespeare Project, they will learn how a dramatic text goes from a script on the page to a production on stage. They will understand the aspects of literary research that inform work in the theater, and they will practice completing projects on the tight timeline of the rehearsal process. These skills will enable students to apply for positions in dramaturgy or literary development.
- Third, the student who serves as peer instructor will gain teaching skills. Nearly all the English students with whom I work are interested in teaching after graduation, and the peer instructorship will develop the requisite skills in planning a curriculum, developing a lesson plan, facilitating classroom activities, meeting with individual students, and assessing student work.