Literary Studies / Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Fakultät für Philologie, English Department
maik.goth [aτ] rub.de
Project: Double Entendre in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Comedy: Text, Performance, Criticism
Double entendres abound in Restoration comedy. One the most of famous examples of such wordplay occurs in William Wycherley's The Country Wife (1675), where Lady Fidget seemingly flaunts her enthusiasm for Horner's china collection in front of her husband Sir Jasper: "he knows china very well, and has himself very good, but will not let me see it lest I should beg some" (IV. iii. 102-104). What sounds uncompromising to Sir Jasper is in fact an example of impromptu wordplay: Lady Fidget here quick-wittedly converts the term china into a double entendre for sex in order to communicate her desires to Horner and to lead him to the adjacent room for an adulterous assignation.
Wycherley’s notorious china scene suggests that double entendre is tied to the generic conventions of late seventeenth-century comedy and farce. My projects reassesses this entrenched view by placing such wordplay at the intersection of dramatic text, theatrical performance, and contemporary criticism in both the seventeenth and the eighteenth century. Among others, plays like Richard Steele's The Tender Husband (1704) and Edward Moore’s The Foundling (1748) indicate that double entendre, although controversial because of its raunchiness, was not extinct in the eighteenth century. I will first address issues of definition and distinction between types of wordplay (phonetic similarity, polysemy, situational and metaphorical meanings) and survey views expressed in post-Renaissance criticism; I will then offer exemplary analyses of double entendres in the comedies from the Restoration and the eighteenth century. These examples will illustrate that double entendre, constantly reappropriated after the Interregnum, joins different comic modes with one another.
I am a literary scholar combining expertise in the literature of the early modern period as well as in Restoration and eighteenth-century comedy with a wide range of interests in literature and drama from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. In addition to my extensive experience researching texts in their historical, literary, and cultural contexts, I have taught courses in literary studies (from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century) and foreign language teaching (Fremdsprachenausbildung). I joined the Spenser Review as Corresponding Editor in 2012.
After obtaining an M.A. degree in English Philology, Classical Philology and American Studies, I received my PhD at the University of Bochum in 2010 for a thesis investigating the role of the monsters and monstrous beings in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590; 1596), a task not hitherto done in a systematic fashion. Part I contains a comprehensive taxonomic study of the various monsters inhabiting the poem; Part II explores Spenser's complex engagement with the contemporaneous notions of the monstrous imagination and the autonomous poet; and Part III approaches the poem itself as a monstrous artefact. The book version of my thesis will be published at Manchester University Press later this year.
I have a long-standing interest in wordplay. My first book, From Chaucer’s Pardoner to Shakespeare's Iago: Aspects of Intermediality in the History of the Vice, deals with the evolution of the Vice character from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (backbiter, 'folksy' deceiver, allegorical villain), and particularly analyses the Vices' manipulation of language (e.g., in double entendre, multilingual wordplay, equivocation, Pig-Latin, etc.). As an early modern scholar, I have been working in an age rife with wordplay; among others, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, on which I wrote my PhD thesis, contains complex wordplay essential to the meaning of the poem. An additional early modern interest of mine is Metaphysical Poetry, and especially John Donne's oeuvre, which is rich in wordplay of all kinds. My third book project (Habilitationsprojekt), which deals with the reception of Terence in comedy and criticism in England from 1660-1780, focuses on an age in which wordplay was not only widely used in the theatres, but also became the subject of critical controversy. I have also nursed a strong interest in the wordplay of twentieth-century literature and drama (as in the article on John Lanchester's ludic novel, The Debt to Pleasure).
"'Infinite Shapes of Things': Monsters and the Monstrous in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene", Clerks, Wives and Historians: Essays on Medieval Language and Literature, ed. by Winfried Rudolf, Thomas Honegger and Andrew James Johnston, Variations 8 (Bern et al.: Peter Lang, 2008), pp. 141-184.
"'Killing, Hewing, Stabbing, Dagger-drawing, Fighting, Butchery': Skin Penetration in Renaissance Tragedy and Its Bearing on Dramatic Theory", Comparative Drama 46 (2012): 139-162.
"Exaggerating Terence's Andria: Steele's The Conscious Lovers, Bellamy's The Perjur'd Devotee, and Terentian Criticism", Ancient Comedy and Reception: Studies in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson, ed. by Douglas Olson (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), pp. 503-35.