“Trans as Method: The Sociality of Gender and Shakespeare”
Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation 14.2 (2023). Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies ACMRS Press. ISSN 1554-6985
This article serves as the general introduction to the special issue on contemporary performance. It proposes “trans” as method and as a social practice rather than as an immutable identity category that stands in opposition to more established ones such as cis-gender men or cisgender women.
This article asks new questions about Shakespearean performance:
- How might the meanings of the plays change if we consider them as transgender performances rather than cis-centric stories requiring suspension of disbelief about cross-gender roles?
- What if the body of the female character and the actor’s somatic presence exist on a continuum rather than in contrary fixations?
In Shakespeare’s times, the enactment of gender practices is not predicated upon “substitutions” (as in substituting the boy actor for Desdemona) or entail diagnostic recognition (as in being reminded of the “real” body beneath the illusion of Desdemona or Ophelia).
This introduction outlines key issues with today’s terminology, suggests a more effective and inclusive vocabulary , elucidates trans as method, and demonstrates trans studies’ relevance to Shakespeare studies. Research articles in this issue deal primarily with tacit representations of transness in film and performance, such as the case of an actor who came out as trans posthumously, and interviews highlight practitioners’ voices by rerouting the epistemological circuits that have predetermined who can produce knowledge about gender.