Queer Time on the Early Modern Stage: France and the Drama of Biopower

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Abstract

In mid-seventeenth-century France, newly precise timepieces offered an unprecedented richness to the experience of time: of time passing, of haste, and of slowness. Time governed affects and desires in new ways: from certain socio-sexual tempos (paces of courtship, reproduction) to the propriety of behavior onstage (in the unity of time). The theater, fast becoming a cornerstone of Absolutist statecraft, both modeled and contested new types of embodiment and new temporalities that were on the horizon. However, instead of analyzing the explicitly political uses of theater, I examine theater’s more subtle forms of managing the population through chrono-biopower. As Foucault argues, disciplinary power, rather than deciding on the right to live or to die, sought instead to manage bodies through the controlled flourishing or strategic diminishing of life’s capacities. One essential and overlooked component of biopower includes the sensation of time as dramatized onstage. Drawing upon examples from Benserade’s Iphis et Iante and Corneille’s Le Cid, I unearth the counter-hegemonic erotics, forms of intimacies, and circulations of affect that speeds and slownesses can reveal in the theater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-81
Number of pages24
JournalExemplaria
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • biopower
  • Foucault
  • Le Cid
  • queer
  • Temporality
  • theater
  • velocity

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