Whiggish History for Contemporary Audiences. Implicit Religion in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age

José Igor Prieto-Arranz

Abstract


As James Chapman has famously put it in National Identity and the British Historical Film, historical films are “as much about the present in which they are made as they are about [the] past in which they are set.” This article discusses Shekhar Kapur’s aesthetically ground-breaking Elizabeth (1998) and its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) focusing on two main aspects, namely national identity issues and the representation of the enemy.

Kapur’s Elizabeth films will first be placed within the larger context of Elizabeth’s film and television appearances. Informed by Giroux’s critical methodology guidelines, in an attempt to “historize” the films under scrutiny and so foster “sane historical sense,” a se­miotic analysis will then be offered. Largely inspired by the tenets of Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis and Kress and Leeuwen’s visual grammar, this will draw a parallel between the verbal and visual discourses in both films. Data will finally be discussed and the contention will be made that England’s (and even Britain’s) religious heritage has left indelible traces which remain latent in the English imagination, for which historical evi­dence will be presented.

The article’s ultimate aim will be to provide evidence suggesting that, in the English case, religious and national discourses merged from the late 16th century onwards, clearly influ­en­cing not only the perception that the English had of themselves but also and crucially the image they may still have of “Other” nations.


Keywords


Elizabeth I; historical film; implicit religion; national identity; otherness; She¬k¬har Kapur; Spain.

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