The rhetoric of Shakespearean appropriation
Presley, Erin Melinda Denise
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This dissertation examines the rhetorical relationship between Shakespeare as an appropriator and Shakespeare as a source for contemporary women novelists. Influenced by early modern pedagogy and its emphasis on imitation, Shakespeare’s relation to his sources reflects the primary sense of “invention”: to find or discover. Shakespeare’s use of source materials complicates both the notion that early modern drama had no sense of textual audience and the Romantic notion of originality. Focusing on the models of Shakespeare’s mode of appropriation offered by King Lear and The Tempest, this dissertation understands appropriation as a give-and-take process that emphasizes negotiation over theft. Edgar’s “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say” (King Lear 5.3.299) and Caliban’s “You taught me language, and my profit on’t / Is I know how to curse” (The Tempest 1.2.366-7) shape the ways in which Jane Smiley, Marina Warner, Gloria Naylor, and Iris Murdoch respectively engage with the source plays in their novels. Informed by the complicated ideas about language present in these lines and the novelistic discourse theories of Mikhail Bakhtin and Kenneth Burke, the dissertation offers an alternative definition of literary appropriation, viewing the act as collaborative rather than as textual theft, by putting the source plays into conversation with their contemporary counterparts.