Rewriting Shakespeare’s Plays For and By the Contemporary Stage. January 1st 2014

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Shakespeare Institute. University of Birmingham. UK. University of Maine, Le Mans. France.
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Rewriting Shakespeare’s Plays For and By the Contemporary Stage

Why have contemporary playwrights been obsessed by Shakespeare’s plays to such an extent that they have offered their own versions of most of his works? Edward Bond’s Lear and Heiner Müller’s Hamlet-Machine, Carmelo Bene’s Richard III and Eugène Ionesco’s Macbett, Arnold Wesker’s Merchant and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, are all landmarks in both modern theatre and in the rereading of Shakespeare. Others such as Howard Barker’s Gertrude, The Cry or Bernard Marie Koltès’s Le Jour des Meurtres dans l’histoire d’Hamlet, Botho Strauss’s Rape and Normand Chaurette’s Les Reines, have also tackled relevant issues using different writing techniques and aiming at new dramatic perspectives.

Originating from various countries, contemporary authors have provided food for thought on issues such as Shakespearean role-playing, narrative and structural re-shuffling, and the political implications and cultural stakes of repeating Shakespeare with and without a difference, finding inspiration in their own national experiences and in the different ordeals they have undergone.
How have these contemporary authors carried out their rewritings, and with what aims? Can we still play Hamlet, for instance, as Dieter Lesage asks in his book bearing this title, or do we have to “kill Shakespeare” as Normand Chaurette seems to imply in a work where he details his own creative process? What do rewritings really share with their sources? Are they meaningful only because of Shakespeare’s shadow haunting them? Where do we draw the lines between ‘interpretation,’ ‘adaptation’ and ‘rewriting’?

In this collection of essays, authors are invited to examine modern rewritings of Shakespeare from both theoretical and pragmatic standpoints. Key questions may include:
- can a rewriting be meaningful without the reader’s/spectator’s already knowing Shakespeare?
- does the survival of Shakespeare in the cultural repertory in practice depend on the refreshment, re-casting and reassimilation carried out by these drastic rewritings?
- can today’s authors write without a model? In other words, can they write without rewriting?

Papers may focus on Shakespeare’s sources and either one ore more rewritings of his works, in whatever medium or genre.

Academics, creative writers and theatre practitioners alike are welcome to send a 300-word synopsis and a short bibliography to and before January 1st 2014. Papers that will have received formal agreement should be completed in May 1st 2014.
The volume, written in English, will be considered by a Scientific Committee of the SEAA 17/18 (Société des Etudes Anglo-Américaines) and submitted to Manchester University Press.

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