At the next Babel Conference, at UC Santa Barbara, October 2014, I’ve organized a panel with CJ Gordon on Cute Shakespeare. Here’s what we’re planning to serve up.
Small, Soft, Sweet, Sticky … and (Post)Secular?
In “Our Aesthetic Categories,” Sianne Ngai cites Hannah Arendt on the “modern enchantment with ‘small things’ … the art of being happy between dog and cat and flowerpot.” This modern “enchantment,” we would like to suggest, is bound up with the imperfect disenchantments brought about by secularization. The bejeweled reliquaries, aromatic censers, bittersweet aqua vitae, and velvet vestments of medieval Christianity, as well as the Virgin Mary’s breast milk, the sweet baby Jesus’s foreskin, and the adorable softness of little lambs manifested a cult of cute only partly translated into the modern commodity fetish and the autonomous work of art. Our papers explore the coy and tacky, sumptuous and frivolous remnants of political theology as they toddle, blush, flirt, and purr towards their commodified and demystified futures. To what extent is Shakespearean drama an incubator and curator for the haptic and hand-held aspects of cuteness in relation to secularization and its remainders? What role do sex, age, and housekeeping play in Shakespeare’s distillations and domestications of cute? How does religion, especially Catholicism, come to appear cute (sticky and stinky, infantile and overwrought) in the rational nostalgia of secularism, and what does that post-production affect both capture and belittle in Shakespeare’s fairy toys and baseless fabrics? These questions are the starting point of our panel.
Julia Reinhard Lupton, University of California, Irvine
Luke Wilson, Ohio State University
CJ Gordon, University of California, Irvine
Tommy Anderson, Mississippi State University