Stages of Knowing in Shakespeare (NeMLA 2019 -- roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association / NeMLA
contact email: 

Shakespeare gave and withheld knowledge to craft his plot and engage his audience. We are taken on a guided ride from which we glimpse what the playwright chooses thus forming our layers of knowledge through which we are manipulated. What we know can be what we knew before attending the play, based on dialogue from the characters, or from reported speech of events off stage and even in times before the play.

 

Shakespeare, and of course any playwright, had to build their story within their allotted two hours of stage traffic. The dialogue and action impart information to the audience to build the plot, but such knowledge need not be a reflection of reality. We are taken on a guided ride from which we glimpse what the playwright chooses thus forming our layers of knowledge through which we are manipulated. Often we are privy to the internal thoughts of a character which contrast with their public utterances which can result in humor as for Rosalind as Ganymede, or disgust as for Angelo or Richard III. Our prescient view makes Macduff's seemingly banal inquiry about his wife and children emotive fire. Our own knowing is challenged just by taking in a play as the we know it is not real, but becoming fully engaged and invested as though real is what good theatre does. The pathos of Edgar leading Gloucester to assist in his suicide by jumping from a cliff we know is not really there is palpable, but when Gloucester "jumps" it is mind boggling that we can still experience free fall. What fools these mortals be. Each theatre goer brings their own knowledge to each production that influences how a play impacts them such as the audience knowing what will happen following Henry's victory in France. Some action takes place out of our view offstage and we learn via reported speech, or we hear of events that predate the action of the play itself. How many children had lady Macbeth? Though the question was tongue in cheek, withheld or hinted at information can be intriguing.

 

This roundtable session seeks to examine a wide range of channels and machinations that played on the audiences' knowledge found in Shakespeare's plays and their ramifications.  It will be part of NeMLA 2019, the 50th Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association held March 21-24, 2019 in Washington, DC at the Gaylord National Resort Center.

 

Please submit abstract proposals of no more than 250 words by September 30, 2018, using the NeMLA link: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/login