Arya Sureshbabu

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Department:
English
Term:
Spring 2019

My research triangulates gender, genre, and absence to provide insights into three texts: Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida, and Jayaraj’s Kannaki, a 2001 Malayalam film adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra. While criticism on Renaissance drama often theorizes the gender-genre relationship through a dichotomy of feminine comedy/masculine tragedy, I aim to examine how marginal female characters in Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida trouble these generic conventions. The mythic Trojan women in Troilus and Cressida carry enormous tragic weight within the classical dramatic tradition, so their very marginalization suggests a suppression of a tragic trajectory. The Roman women of Antony and Cleopatra disrupt the gendered representation of a masculine imperial Rome and a feminine subjugated Egypt, while the Egyptian ladies-in-waiting infuse tragic moments with comic undertones. The experimental nature of adaptation allows Kannaki to generate answers to some of the hypotheticals prompted by theatrical absence in these plays, and I will analyze how this film plays with its source material’s gender dynamics through minor characters. I will also explore how Kannaki’s comic deflation of its source material resonates with Troilus and Cressida’s satiric tendencies and may constitute a mockery of imperial ambitions. I hope that a study of Kannaki's syncretism, with its appropriation of Shakespearean characters alongside folk traditions, will elaborate understandings of British literary hegemony in India by focusing on an understudied regional cinematic culture and illuminate the status of mythic female companionship within the collective religious subconscious of modern-day Kerala.