Shakespeare and 'Accentism'

deadline for submissions: 
July 31, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Adele Lee
contact email: 

Call For Contributions: Shakespeare and Accentism

Editor: Adele Lee (Emerson College, USA)

Publisher: Routledge

 This collection explores the aural distinctions and consequences of ‘accentism’ in Shakespeare across languages and cultures, past and present. The objectives are:

 1) To advance studies into how Shakespeare originally sounded (OP) and, more specifically, to explore how ‘foreign’ and regional accents were performed on the early modern stage. After all, Shakespeare delineated characters linguistically (frequently referring to ‘plain’, ‘fine’, ‘rough’, ‘heavy’ and even ‘Christian’ voices), and used accents to denote Otherness and convey certain character traits, but what textual (and contextual) cues exist to help us identity the use of accents on the Renaissance stage?

2) To critically assess the nature, origins and implications of Received Pronunciation (RP), the accent widely associated with Shakespeare performance and, in particular, how acting methods, cultural hierarchies, and the Shakespeare industry per se continues to pressurize actors (and scholars) to streamline or ‘elevate’ their voices.  

3) To analyze contemporary non-Anglophone Shakespeare productions and what impact ‘foreign’ accents have on performance reception. In particular, to address the exclusion and stereotyping of non-English speakers and the oft-unacknowledged sonic color line that divides the Shakespeare industry. It will also, like the rest of the book, highlight how accents are ‘metasigns’ and function on a semiotic plane, bringing new meaning to how Shakespeare is interpreted.

This collection differs from existing titles in that it explores both Shakespeare’s accentism and accentism within the contemporary Shakespeare industry. It thus adopts an interdisciplinary, transmedia, and transhistorical approach to a subject that has been dominated by the study of OP. Yet the OP project avoids linguistically foreign characters (such as Othello, Shylock and Cleopatra) because of the additional complications their ‘aberrant’ speech poses to the reconstruction procedure. The OP project also evades discussion of contemporary, global performance practices, and underpinning the whole enterprise is the search for an aural ‘purity’ and ‘authenticity’ that is doubtful ever existed. This search is also at odds with the rebranding of Shakespeare as a global author and the multicultural nature of Shakespeare performance in the twenty-first century.

By contrast, this collection attends to ‘foreign’ speech patterns in both the early modern and postmodern periods; it explores how sound operates as a ‘metasign’ and a ‘racial signifier’; and it embraces new methodologies, which include attending to the material conditions of Renaissance theatrical production, and uncovering novel modes of foreign-inflected speech across the early modern textual corpus.

 The editor invites contributions that address one or more of the following topics:

  • Shakespeare’s treatment of regional and/or foreign accents
  • The accent-specific nature of Shakespearean roles
  • Phonetic variation on the Renaissance/Shakespearean stage.
  • The effect of hearing and/or performing Shakespeare in “non-standard” accents
  • The exclusion, stereotyping and language used for “non-standard” English speakers
  • Theatre practitioners / celebrity actors who have influenced the perception of a “correct” accent
  • Translating Shakespeare’s accents into other languages and cultures

Essays that examine specific productions, actors, repertories, or that take on these topics more broadly in a theoretical, historical and methodological context, are welcome.

Please send 250-word abstracts and biographies to before 31 July 2018.

Deadline for submission of full papers (6,000-8,000 words): 30 September 2018

Review process deadline: 31 December 2018