Minor Shakespeares: the politics and aesthetics of the margins - 23rd-24th September, 2016
Keynote lectures: Peter Greenaway and Prof. Richard Wilson
For Deleuze and Guattari there are modes of literature that offer themselves to the state, to official and institutional discourse, and thus to the hierarchically transcendent. These reactionary forms are to be contrasted with the resistant, revolutionary, and immanent 'lines-of-flight' of 'minor literature'.
At first glance it might seem disingenuous to link minor literature with the author at the undisputed centre of the English canon. Certainly there is a repressive, deathly and conservative Shakespeare. But there is also a Shakespeare of the margins, uncanniness and resistance. This is in part due to the situation of early modern theatre. Unlike the central place accorded to Athenian theatre, the early modern London theatres were situated in the liminal Liberties beyond the jurisdiction of the city fathers. Writing away from the centres of political power, this spatial marginality was continually reinscribed as political subversion. But this politics of the margin is all-too-frequently forgotten, repressed, or mislaid. As Peter Greenaway's filmmaking and Richard Wilson's criticism likewise show, holding open the lines-of-flight for alternative Shakespearean meanings has involved reading against the grain, with the help of digital technologies, avant-gardism, French theory, recussant Catholicism, or other minority discourses. It is the task of the present to draw out this 'foreignness in its own language' at the 'heart of great literature', as Deleuze and Guattari put it, so as to 'extract from the text its revolutionary force'.
Political ethics are also central to Shakespeare's concern with suffering at the margins. In the play Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare foregrounds the ethical obligation to the destitute. More describes the exiled Huguenots as
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation.
With words that demand pity in the face of sheer human suffering, More's discourse on the stranger reaches across history to speak of our ethical obligations when confronted by disasters such as the contemporary Syrian refugee crisis.
The situation of global Shakespeare also fosters the reading of multiple minor traditions and divergent Shakespeares. From Pakistani theatre, Japanese samurai movies, new media digital archives, to post-communist European cinema, revamped South Korean folktales and avant-garde Venezuelan performance, it is with immeasurable richness that the archetypes, registers, poetic topographies and interpersonal dynamics of Shakespearean drama and language are globally remapped and contemporarily rethought. The Old English wyrd, of Germanic origin, originally meant 'having the power to control destiny'. Picking up on this sense, Shakespeare's weird or weyard Sisters in Macbeth speak into the future. As with the various Shakespearean afterlives, the witches' wayward familiarity lends them an uncanny resistance to the normative.
Some have claimed Shakespeare as spokesman for normativity. Nigel Lawson, the United Kingdom's former chancellor of the exchequer, stated (combining ignorance and political opportunism) that 'Shakespeare was a Tory without any doubt'. But despite the way that Shakespeare is so venerably institutionalized, so cushioned in canons of literature, the weirdness remains. The poetry, resistant to stabilizing interpretation, always ready to be re-read anew, is like so many invisible bullets undermining structures of power and bourgeois sensibility from within.
This conference considers marginality in Shakespeare's poetry and drama, as well as the weird and alternative afterlives that arise from Shakespeare's writing. Possible topics include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Ecological, politicized, feminist, postcolonial, queer, impaired, and other marginal or 'othered' readings of the Shakespeare text;
- Discourses of the strange, marginal or uncanny: alterity in early modern culture;
- Intensive affects: violence, horror, terror, or abjection in, or from, Shakespeare's writing;
- Temporal marginality: hauntings or futural anticipations in Shakespeare's poetry and narrative structures;
- Shakespeare and technology: print, cinema, electronic, digital media or media archaeology;
- Adaptation, performance, interpretation and translation across cultures, geographies and historical periods;
- Shakespeare read from the margins, from the discourses of classicism, mediaevalism, modernism, theology, sociology, psychoanalysis, art history, theory, the natural sciences, computational anaylsis, the medical humanities, political philosophy, or (bio)ethics.
Please send abstracts of about 200 words to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 31st July 2016.