Presentation Title

P-14 The Disappearing Moor: Race, Authenticity, and the Nation’s History in "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies"

Presenter Status

Professor, English

Preferred Session

Poster Session

Start Date

26-10-2018 2:00 PM

End Date

26-10-2018 3:00 PM

Presentation Abstract

The 2015 BBC televisual adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (2009)and Bring up the Bodies (2012) strive to match an “authenticity” standard claimed by their novelistic sources, notably Mantel’s remarkable attention to the minutiae of Tudor quotidian habits—household regulations, food preparation, religious rituals, and various social customs. Further authorized by a literary genealogy including Shakespeare and Fletcher’s co-authored play, Henry VIII (1613), the BBC adaptations twin the racial codes embedded in two genres—the history play and heritage film—to reinforce an exclusively white story of England. Even as she replicates the particularities of material daily life in Tudor England, Mantel argues that received notions of historical truth must be disrupted, “We need to pass on the stories but also impart the skills to hack the stories apart and make new ones.” This mandate results in her novels’ controversial reassessments of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More; however, what remains untouched in her work and the BBC adaptation is the “hallowed” whiteness of the English Renaissance past. Tracing the sanitized fate of one troubling reference to blacking-up—a disappearing moor—illustrates the BBC’s recognition of racially problematic tropes. Nonetheless, in its representational choices, the adaptation perpetuates the blind spots of Mantel’s novels, denies the impact made by persons of color on the emergent English nation, and insists on a dubious historical authenticity.

Acknowledgments

Andrews University Faculty Research Grant

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Oct 26th, 2:00 PM Oct 26th, 3:00 PM

P-14 The Disappearing Moor: Race, Authenticity, and the Nation’s History in "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies"

The 2015 BBC televisual adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (2009)and Bring up the Bodies (2012) strive to match an “authenticity” standard claimed by their novelistic sources, notably Mantel’s remarkable attention to the minutiae of Tudor quotidian habits—household regulations, food preparation, religious rituals, and various social customs. Further authorized by a literary genealogy including Shakespeare and Fletcher’s co-authored play, Henry VIII (1613), the BBC adaptations twin the racial codes embedded in two genres—the history play and heritage film—to reinforce an exclusively white story of England. Even as she replicates the particularities of material daily life in Tudor England, Mantel argues that received notions of historical truth must be disrupted, “We need to pass on the stories but also impart the skills to hack the stories apart and make new ones.” This mandate results in her novels’ controversial reassessments of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More; however, what remains untouched in her work and the BBC adaptation is the “hallowed” whiteness of the English Renaissance past. Tracing the sanitized fate of one troubling reference to blacking-up—a disappearing moor—illustrates the BBC’s recognition of racially problematic tropes. Nonetheless, in its representational choices, the adaptation perpetuates the blind spots of Mantel’s novels, denies the impact made by persons of color on the emergent English nation, and insists on a dubious historical authenticity.