New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies
Edited By Laura Benedetti, Julia Hairston and Julia L. Hairston
Transgressive Transvestism in Three Scala Scenarios: Rosalind Kerr 109
Transgressive Transvestism in Three Scala Scenarios Rosalind Kerr The appearance of women on the public stage was representative of a profound paradigm shift in western culture-a shift which the commedia dell 'arte reflected in theatrical form. The epistemic shift I refer to is one which Foucault, in The Order of Things, placed at the beginning of the seventeenth century, just at the time the commedia dell'arte was blossom- ing into a full-fledged art form. At this critical juncture, Foucault identi- fied a new classical self-consciousness which began to locate the meaning of representation in representation itself, rather than in the search for resemblances to an ideal which had characterized the Renaissance. 1 Several of the most important questions concerning theatrical reality which the commedia dell 'arte raised emanated from its greatest attrac- tion-the actual representation of women on stage. Covering up and silencing the sin-marked bodies of women to prevent the damnation of Christian men no longer served the ideological needs of the newly emerg- ing secular Republic. Since the acquisition of knowledge was now consid- ered to be mainly a function of individual observation rather than of communally shared Christian teachings, real women's bodies might profitably be re-examined to re-define the places permitted to women in the body politic. The Italian stage helped to give birth to "bourgeois sexuality" as the commedia dell'arte provided an ideal forum to explore the similarities and differences between the sexes from the predominantly visual perspective of bourgeois desire. 2 Based like their distant...
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