This is part of a bi-weekly series here at TSS: Early Modern and Open Access regularly showcases peer-reviewed articles (or other resources) of interest to early modernists that are freely available in open access formats.
Laurie E. Osborne, “From Mary Cowden Clarke to Contemporary Young Adult Novels: (Re)constructing Gender and Sexuality in Adaptations of As You Like It and Twelfth Night,” Borrowers and Lenders 9.2 (2015)
In ‘From Mary Cowden Clarke to Contemporary Young Adult Novels: (Re)constructing Gender and Sexuality in YA Adaptations of As You Like It and Twelfth Night,’ I analyze how YA fictions linked to As You Like It and Twelfth Night rework the crucial yoking of sexual and gender identity that Cowden Clarke identifies from a distinctly Victorian perspective on female sexuality in her 1848-50 novellas, The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines. Contemporary YA Shakespearean adaptations of these two comedies reflect upon the distinctive social and ethical issues that occupy Cowden Clarke, such as same-sex friendships, cross-gender identification, and the multiple consequences of sexual attraction. However, they also explore current issues in gender identity and sexuality while expanding and testing the several temporal and aesthetic frameworks that Shakespeare now inhabits. Current adaptations use Shakespeare to characterize gender as performance and, in turn, to investigate the implications of those performances. Some of these extend the scope of adapting As You Like It and Twelfth Night so that alternative sexual and gender identities have their own narrative space. In effect, these novelists displace homoeroticism, as Cowden Clarke does, but they in turn dismiss those dislocations. With these novels, this essay argues that YA fiction embraces important differences produced by a contemporary willingness to reframe the possible relationships between gender identification and sexuality, in part by negotiating historical changes in that relationship through complex explorations of Shakespearean temporalities.