Mary Martin McLaughlin Lecture: Queer Pregnancy and Shakespeare

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by Dr. Kelly Stage Tue, 10/11/2022 - 12:10

On Tuesday, October 11, Dr. Alicia Andrzejewski (William and Mary University) will present the Marty Martin McLaughlin Memorial Lecture for fall 2022. Dr. Andrzejewski will lecture on the concept of queer pregnancy in Shakespeare's plays, with a special look at All's Well that Ends Well. Join us at 5:15 in the Center for Great Plains Studies Gallery (1155 Q Street, Lincoln NE). 

Professor Andrzejewski will share insights from her research on the Shakespeare‘s plays and their depiction of intimate relationships between women, during and surrounding, pregnancy. As she argues, early modern scholars who explore homoerotic desire have often attended to queer attractions, cohabitations, and alliances in Shakespeare’s plays. To date, however, scholars interested in LGBTQ+ lives tend to read representations of pregnancy in early modern literature as commensurate with heterosexual sex, desire, and partnership. And while feminist scholars have illuminated Shakespeare’s images of pregnancy in innovative ways, these readings usually conflate pregnancy with maternity and rarely address the relationship between pregnancy and what Judith Bennet calls “lesbian-like” intimacies and communities. Using All’s Well That Ends Wellas a case study, Dr. Andrezewski will demonstrate how the heteronormative frameworks through which pregnancy continues to be read dull the transgressive force of pregnancy in Shakespeare’s work and the expansive ways in which early moderns thought about the pregnant body. She will call upon the concept of “queer pregnancy” to reorient scholars to pregnancy in Shakespeare’s plays and beyond. As an idea, “queer pregnancy” outlines how high the stakes are for pregnant people who continue to be read and treated through perspectives that do not take queer bodies, identities, and experiences into account.

An assistant professor in William & Mary’s English department, Dr. Andrzejewski is a scholar of cultural studies and critical theory with an expertise in Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the medical humanities, and performance studies. Her peer-reviewed work has appeared in Shakespeare Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, and The Tennessee Williams Annual Review, and she has also published on her scholarship in online literary magazines such as Literary Hub, American Theater, and Electric Literature. Her current book project is Queer Pregnancy in Shakespeare’s Plays, which argues for the transgressive force of pregnancy in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. In addition, she writes creative nonfiction on everything from houseplants to Machine Gun Kelly to serpent handling, for publications such as The Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Catapult, Outside Magazine, and LA Review of Books

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies program also recognizes Mary Martin McLaughlin’s landmark scholarship through this memorial lecture, and Dr. Bertolet’s extensive work on women and early modern queenship makes her an especially fitting speaker for this occasion. Mary Martin McLaughlin, a native of Grand Island and a graduate (BA and MA) of the UNL History Department, was a scholar of women, children, family, and women’s religious communities in medieval Europe. She earned her PhD at Columbia University and taught at Wellesley, Vassar, and the University of Nebraska. Two books (with co-editor James Bruce Ross) published during her lifetime, “The Portable Medieval Reader” and “The Portable Renaissance Reader,” made her work a staple of college courses for decades. Her masterwork, “Heloise and the Paraclete: A Twelfth-Century Quest” (with Bonnie Wheeler) was published in 2002, and her edition of “The Letters of Heloise and Abelard” (also with Wheeler) was published posthumously in 2009. 

The talk is free and open to the public. An informal reception will follow the lecture.