“Her very phrases”: Exploiting the Metaphysics of Presence in Twelfth Night
Oral Traditions and Gender in Early Modern Literary Texts
Karen Bamford and Mary Ellen Lamb
This chapter argues that, in addition to the favoring of speech over writing, "many other hidden sediments cling" to the "metaphysico-theological roots" of the metaphysics of presence, including the ideological commitments related to gender that are active in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Malvolio's misreading of the letter as being written in "her hand" and containing "her very phrases" demonstrates how easily men can "secure the fictions of masculinity and authorial voice by excluding female bodies and voices". The metaphysics of presence is founded on the observation that "in oral communication, the speaker is present to an audience, and, according to the tradition, the presence assures full, unmediated communication; writing, in contrast, is seen as secondary to speech". The oral nature of the fantasies is intimately connected to the dominance of the metaphysics of presence, which establishes public speech as the paradigm for the authority to "do things with words."
Language, literature, speech, writing, oral traditions, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Arts and Humanities | Oral History | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Reading and Language
Mason, Eric. (2008). “Her very phrases”: Exploiting the Metaphysics of Presence in Twelfth Night. In Karen Bamford and Mary Ellen Lamb (Eds.), Oral Traditions and Gender in Early Modern Literary Texts (14 pages).