August 10, 2010


I've been reading about bears all day, and come across the wonderful term "Bearist" as used by Helen Cooper and Teresa Grant in correspondence in the London Review of Books. I'm not really concerned with the specifics of the use of animals, though a middle ground between two extreme points seems to make sense: the use of bears for court performances of Mucedorus and The Winter's Tale seems to me to be entirely probable and in keeping with the spirit of the occasion; when the plays were performed on the public stage, however, Cooper's arguments that bear costumes would have been employed make sense. What's important to me is the implication - one I think is justified - that Mucedorus was revived in 1610 to capitalise on the availability of two polar bear cubs, and that the additional business with Mouse early in the play (one of the few additions not to be concerned with emphasising the prince's true identity) takes explicit advantage of this.

I'm tickled, though, by Cooper's description of Grant, Anne Barton and others as "bearists." A Bearist would then  presumably be an aherent to Bearism? Does that make Cooper an anti-Bearist? Or a Bearnostic? More seriously, is a belief that bears were utilised on the early modern stage worthy of a specific label? It seems that Cooper's implicit division of critical positions into "Bearist" and "non-Bearist" is perhaps taking categorisation too far. Or is there a real schism here in animal-based literary studies? The idea of what Chris Holmes refers to as a "cabal of zealous bear theorists holed up and busily engaged in impassioned debate", frankly, scares me a little bit.

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I’m Peter Kirwan, a final year doctoral student in the English Department at Warwick, and this is my PhD blog.

Conferences, reviews, articles, thoughts and links relating to my interests in the Shakespeare apocrypha, early modern drama, authorship and performance.

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