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Chapter 32 of The Cambridge Companion to Sappho examines the reception of Sappho’s poetry in India, examining figures such as Sir William Jones, Kamala Das, Adela ‘Violet’Nicolson (Laurence Hope), Lord Alfred Douglas, Somerset Maugham, Mohammad Sana’ullah Dar (Miraji), Abdul Aziz Khalid, Keki N. Daruwalla, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, and Beram Saklatvala (Henry Marsh).
If there is some truth to the adage that there are two basic plots - person leaves home, and stranger comes to town - it is even truer that stories about same sex desire involve selves changed through travel. Protagonists move from the rural to the urban, occasionally from the urban back to the rural, and often from one country to another, in search of more congenial climes and of the hidden self. When people travel so do ideas. Ideas about same-sex desire have circulated between cultures throughout recorded history and cross-fertilized one another. Opposition to homosexuality often takes the form of blaming other cultures for importing it into one's own supposedly pristine society. As John Boswell points out, this tendency is evident in classical antiquity as well as in medieval Europe; it is much more pernicious and widespread today. The current wave of globalization, which has had many precursors throughout history, brings a new twist to the debate. LGBT movements in developing countries are frequently seen as manifestations of neo-imperialism, with 'third world' queer people mindlessly imitating 'first world' identities, like 'gay', 'lesbian' and 'homosexual'. This is the left-wing counterpart of the right-wing claim that homosexuality is an import from the 'West'.
In this chapter, I argue that The Taming of the Shrew shows Kate being tamed not by her husband alone but by society’s active collusion with him. A man and a woman never are truly alone, as Petruccio’s grammatical slippage in the phrase, ‘when men and women are alone’ inadvertently indicates. Through a close study of language, especially pronouns, singulars and plurals, I argue that the play represents and critiques ‘men and women’ – the weight of material conditions that structure gender and the power politics that uphold male domination – as always present in every particular male–female interaction, however private it may seem. I thus differ both from those who read the play as a celebration of a companionate marriage, and also from those who read it as a misogynist reinforcement of patriarchal ideology. Through an examination of Elizabethan marriage manuals, I demonstrate that both Petruccio’s taming methods and Kate’s unquestioning obedience violate contemporaneous ideals of a good Christian marriage.
My reading evolved from a student production that I co-directed at Delhi University, India, in 1992, which cross-dressed the sexes, with women playing male parts and men female parts. In my work on Mariological images in The Winter’s Tale and Henry VIII, I began to notice connections and verbal echoes between Shakespeare’s representations of his first Kate and his last, which I explore at the end of the essay.
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