Date of Award

Summer 7-3-2014

Document Type




First Advisor

Monique Pittman, Ph.D.


William Shakespeare wrote Coriolanus (1608) when two epistemological modes, empiricism and theater, asserted competing constructions of selfhood. As Renaissance anatomical texts imply, empiricism voiced an increasingly stable and innate subjectivity. In contrast, theater imagined identity as fluid and subject to external manipulation by exposure to the stage. Coriolanus faces a dilemma of selfhood reflecting those conflicting epistemological modes. Outside agents attempt to change his subjectivity, mirroring the theater, while Coriolanus asserts his immutable identity, paralleling empirical understandings. Coriolanus’s concerns of selfhood echo Renaissance subjective anxieties during a changing period as different epistemologies, empiricism and theater, launched rival notions of identity. While much Coriolanus scholarship examines the eponymous hero’s subjective crisis, this project breaks new ground by placing that crisis in the context of emergent somatic epistemologies.

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