CFP: All's Well that Ends Well (6/30/04; collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Waller, Gary
contact email:

CFP: All's Well that ends Well (June 30/04; abstracts or proposals for a
volume of essays in major series)

May 14 2004

I am looking for proposals and abstracts (not full papers at this stage) for
consideration for an edited volume on Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends
Well. A session at the 2006 SAA meeting in Philadelphia will also be
proposed. Proposals and Abstracts can be fairly informal but preferable
should be about 500 words and should be sent by June 30, 2004. Deadline for
accepted proposals will be Summer 2005.

Some categories in which to think about submitting proposals (and these are
not exclusive) are:
1. Beyond genre criticism: Genre, Structure, Language
Essays showing how we can now go beyond the universalistic concept of
comedy, to see All's Well as undermining the expected final harmonies of
traditional patriarchal marriage and familial harmony. Rather than seeing
the play in traditional generic terms as a failed romantic comedy, recent
and forthcoming criticism go back to folklore studies, and see Shakespeare
working in a deliberately a mixed genre, breaking the bounds of (early
twentieth notions of) genre. Another potent recent critical development in
locating All's Well generically that should be represented , are its
connections with the sonnets. The tensions and dislocations of the play has
been likened to those in the sonnets, and the situation of (a male)
Shakespeare developing a comic (female) hero(ine)'s urges, and internal
conflicts in relation to an unresponsive love object radically disrupts, not
merely reverses, traditional genre (and gender) expectations.

2. New Historical/Political
All's Well was written on the cusp of two ideological worlds, and serve
effectively to show the pre-emergence (to use Raymond Williams' term) of
dislocative class, generational and political forces. Generically, the
romance structure of the play encounters unusual social strains. Class -
"blood" and "merit" are the play's traditional terms: All's Well puts into
play emergent challenges to an 'Old' Europe. The organization of the French
court and the estate of Rouisillion are given in detail, and show emergent
social forces of the period that are both disruptive of comedy and social
'harmony' - "a social thunderclap" as Sheldon Zitner put it. There are also
the Generational tensions. That the play broods over this is seen in the
changes Shakespeare made to his scenes - inventing, in particular the
Countess (as well as Lafew).

 3. Gender and Sexuality/Feminist Criticism
All's Well is of special interest to critic's working in both feminist and
gender-aware criticism generally. It opens up fascinating possibilities for
the construction of gender and sexuality - a strong, cunning heroine; a hero
who seems, on the surface, vacillating yet rebellious; a strong older woman,
the discussion on the uses of virginity that Victorian and even many
twentieth century readers and directors found distasteful; and the infamous
bed trick. In addition, Helena can be seen as an "educated woman" (the
doctor's daughter) connects with significant social changes at the time.
Whereas an earlier cultural generation saw Helena as a (perhaps not fully
successful) healer/ magician, to see her as comparable with Mary Sidney or
Mary Wroth, as having power in her art and study (interestingly a more
materially based Prospero) would be revealing.
        On masculinity, in relation to Bertram, we would need to take up the
reading of patriarchal culture post Klaus Theweleit's Male Fantasies.

4. Psychoanalytical - Probably this is where the necessary bed -trick
essay might be located. All's Well's revaluation of romance undermines a
dominant male fantasy, that "he" can always get "her": it is a patriarchal
myth built on need/exploitation and often emerging, as Freud showed, on a
combination of over-valuation and denigration.

5. Romance and Social Fantasy - One of the most interesting recent cultural
movements in Early Modern scholarship has been the revaluation of romance,
fueled by feminism and detailed materialist history, not by the older
Mythic/Archetypal criticism of 30-50 years ago. The medieval basis of
romance stories deserves an essay; the emergent sense of romance, including
the connections between All's Well and the late romances another.

6. Theater and Theatricality
All's Well has, remarkably, had a significant number of recent productions
in major venues (e.g. the RSC). But it has also been produced in a number
of off-metropolitan arenas - Hudson Valley Shakespeare (2003), Cambridge
(UK) Festival 2004, and it is planned for New York to be directed by David
Bassuk in 2005. I would envisage two essays on the varied theatrical
fortunes of the play and in particular would like it to culminate in the
fascinating placing of the Judi Dench production and its place in the
Shakespeare/"Deep England" (Jonathan Bate's term) tourist ideology.

Please send queries, proposals, etc by 30 June by email to At that point I hope to draw up tentative
commitments, though ultimate publication will of course depend on the final

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Received on Thu May 20 2004 - 00:52:49 EDT

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