Advertisement

Shame and Its Affects: The Form–Content Implosion of Shelley’s The Cenci

  • Merrilees Roberts
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Affect Theory and Literary Criticism book series (PSATLC)

Abstract

Combining Silvan Tomkins’ theories about shame’s relation to the self and Brian Massumi’s influential concept of the “autonomy of affect,” this chapter reads the character of Beatrice in Percy Shelley’s The Cenci as a study in self-construction. Beatrice struggles to articulate the fact that she has been raped; this leads to critical uncertainty about the reliability of her disclosures. While the aporia of the rape is normally read as a critique of social hegemony, Roberts demonstrates how Shelley uses reticence to enable Beatrice to manipulate the “autonomy” of shame and style herself as a wronged martyr. Providing an original perspective on how affects are textually expressive, Roberts argues that Beatrice’s manipulation of multiple levels of textual signification parallels how affect simultaneously accesses various aspects of consciousness.

References

  1. Agamben, Giorgio. 2002. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  2. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  3. Felski, Rita. 2015. The Limits of Critique. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. 2012. Atmosphere, Mood, Stimmung: On a Hidden Potential of Literature. Trans. Erik Butler. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Levinas, Emmanuel. 2003. On Escape. Trans. Bettina Bergo. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Leys, Ruth. 2011. The Turn to Affect: A Critique. Critical Inquiry 37 (3): 434–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Massumi, Brian. 1995. The Autonomy of Affect. Cultural Critique 31: 83–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ricoeur, Paul. 1976. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Texas: The Texas Christian University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 2003. Shame, Theatricality, and Queer Performativity: Henry James’s The Art of the Novel. In Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, ed. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 35–65. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, and Adam Frank. 1995. Shame in the Cybernetic Fold: Reading Silvan Tomkins. In Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader, ed. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, 1–29. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Shelley, Percy. 2000 [1819]. The Cenci. In The Poems of Shelley, Longman Annotated English Poets Series, ed. Kelvin Everest and G.M. Matthews, vol. 2, 737–863. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 2000 [1819]. Preface to The Cenci. In The Poems of Shelley, Longman Annotated English Poets Series, ed. Kelvin Everest and G.M. Matthews, vol. 2, 725–726. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  13. Tomkins, Silvan. 1995a. Shame–Humiliation and Contempt–Disgust. In Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader, ed. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, 133–178. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 1995b. Script Theory and Nuclear Scripts. In Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader, ed. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, 179–196. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merrilees Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations