Katharine Goodland, “‘If fires be hot, knives sharp, or waters deep, / Untied I still my virgin knot will keep. / Diana, aid my purpose!’: Virginity as Autonomy in Shakespeare’s Pericles”

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Katharine Goodland, English, The College of Staten Island, CUNY

“‘If fires be hot, knives sharp, or waters deep, / Untied I still my virgin knot will keep. / Diana, aid my purpose!’: Virginity as Autonomy in Shakespeare’s Pericles

Thursday, Feb. 15th, 2018

Room 9207, Graduate Center, CUNY

In this talk Goodland explores a perspective on female virginity that emerges in Pericles in the associations of Thaisa, Marina, and Pericles with the goddess Diana. The final recognition scene re-unites Pericles, Thaisa, and Marina at the temple of the Goddess Diana, which as F. Elizabeth Hart, shows, embodies a long history of potent goddess figures in this ancient city. She is particularly interested in exploring the power of the Virginal Maternal embodied in pre-Christian goddesses, defined, not as a mode of patriarchal oppression, but rather as an expression of female autonomy: as the woman’s power and freedom to choose her mate. In Pericles, both Thaisa and Maria choose their husbands. Pericles, in turn, remains loyal to Thaisa, and in his long period of mourning grows his hair long while praying to the goddess Diana in a way that recalls the male followers of earlier manifestations of the goddess. In the talk Goodland will consider, as well, other plays in which women choose their mates and conclude by suggesting another perspective on cuckoldry—one that emphasizes female social power and control rather than submission. Her goal is to suggest additional ways of thinking about how Shakespeare represents female power within the patriarchal structure of his age.

Katharine Goodland is Professor of English at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island where she teaches course on Shakespeare, English Drama to 1800, and World Drama in both the undergraduate and graduate (Master’s level) English programs.  She also directs the Master of Arts in English, and serves as chair of the college-wide Graduate Studies Committee.  Her publications include: Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama (2006), the three Volume, Directory of Shakespeare in Performance (co-edited with John O’Connor, 2007, 2011), and a number of essays and chapters in journals and edited collections. She is on the editorial board of Shakespeare Bulletin, and has contributed a number of play reviews for that journal. She has worked as a dramaturge at Shakespeare and Company (Lenox, MA) and Bedlam (New York, NY). Her current projects include an edited collection entitled “Shakespeare and the Traditions of Early English Drama,” and a performance history of women actors playing Prospero entitled “Her so Potent Art: Gender and Magic in The Tempest.”


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