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Playing Dirty

Sexuality and Waste in Early Modern Comedy

2011
Author:

Will Stockton

Playing Dirty

The repression of desire uncovered in the production of scatological comedy

Playing Dirty is full of dirty jokes. Arguing that the early modern excremental body is in many ways an erotic body, Will Stockton—with humor and dry wit—reads psychoanalytic theory through early modern comedies, claiming that it is helpful, rather than inimical, to the project of historicizing the body.

Will Stockton has his finger on the pulse of early modern studies. Playing Dirty is timely and exploratory, drawing together a range of approaches which have often been set against each other with theoretical cogency and an unusually light touch.

Christopher Pye, Williams College

Playing Dirty is full of dirty jokes. Arguing that the early modern excremental body is in many ways an erotic body, Will Stockton—with humor and dry wit—reads psychoanalytic theory through early modern comedies, claiming that it is helpful, rather than inimical, to the project of historicizing the body.

Noting that psychoanalysis has traditionally operated in a paranoid framework that relentlessly produces evidence of the same “truths,” Stockton turns to a minority practice in psychoanalysis—associated with Jean Laplanche—to develop a more “playful” analytic for literary studies. This analytic brings together different discourses of sexuality and the body and allows individual writings to reform psychoanalytic wisdom about sexuality, waste, and comedy. Through original explorations of works by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Sir John Harington, Thomas Nashe, and Geoffrey Chaucer, Stockton further encourages the reconciliation of psychoanalysis and queer historicism. He focuses in large part on the less-often-read texts of the early modern English canon, assessing the ways in which these books have been purged from the canon in the name of generic purity.

Playing Dirty builds on recent calls by Renaissance and medieval queer scholars for a method of literary analysis that is less constrained by the boundaries of periodicity and the supposed exigencies of historicism. To take Playing Dirty seriously is to accept its invitation to “play”—to queerly disrupt the modern divide in moving promiscuously between texts past and present.

Playing Dirty

Will Stockton is assistant professor of English at Clemson University. He is editor, with Vin Nardizzi and Stephen Guy-Bray, of Queer Renaissance Historiography: Backward Gaze.

Playing Dirty

Will Stockton has his finger on the pulse of early modern studies. Playing Dirty is timely and exploratory, drawing together a range of approaches which have often been set against each other with theoretical cogency and an unusually light touch.

Christopher Pye, Williams College

Playing Dirty offers a highly readable, smart, and engaging intervention into the role of the history of sexuality in Renaissance studies, psychoanalysis, and in the burgeoning field of waste studies. Comedy and scatology have long been facile bedfellows, but Stockton’s analysis asserts a fresh view on the ‘trash’ of history. Playing Dirty translates well across many literary, cultural, and theoretical registers as it presents a unique view of what it means to be queer.

Erin Labbie, Bowling Green State University

Brilliant. Engaging. Witty. Well-written. Surprising. Wide-ranging and theoretically sophisticated.

Renaissance Quarterly

Playing Dirty

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Wandering Anus: Ben Jonson, John Harington, and Humanist Homopoetics
2. Shakespeare’s Ass: The Merry Wives of Windsor and the Butt of the Joke
3. Happy Endings: Healing Sick Desires in All’s Well That Ends Well
4. Happy Endings II: The Unfortunate Traveller, the “Frenzy of the Visible,” and the Comedy of Anti-Semitism
5. The Pardoner’s Dirty Breeches: Cynicism and Kynicism in The Canterbury Tales
Notes
Index