Not Altogether Feste: Shakespeare's Indirect Engagements with "Foolery"

deadline for submissions: 
June 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Alfred J. Drake / PAMLA (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association)
contact email: 

Paper abstracts needed for PAMLA (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association) Conference Special Session on Shakespeare:

Shakespeare’s plays abound in fools direct, but the language, gesture, and attitude of “foolery” run through his work even aside from the antics of characters such as Feste, Lear’s Fool, or Touchstone. This panel will concentrate on moments in Shakespeare that are not so much driven by the playwright’s most famous practitioners of the fool’s trade, but rather subtly informed and structured by that trade and by the perspective it affords.

Everyone knows the effect of Shakespeare’s most famous fools: we think of the outsider’s perspective afforded by Feste in Twelfth Night or the bemused participation of Touchstone in As You Like It; of the alternately wise and incoherent pronouncements of Lear’s Fool -- a character who shadows the king and keeps him honest in a deranged world dominated by unrestrained ambition and lust, only to disappear when it seems we need him most, and the play draws towards its unbearably bleak end; of the profound influence even of the long-departed jester Yorick’s skull over Hamlet’s spirit as he muses on life and death in the graveyard where Ophelia is soon to be buried. But Shakespeare’s engagement with the language, gesture, and perspective of fools goes well beyond such remembrances. Those who have read and watched his plays intently know that many of them, in one way or another, are structured or otherwise informed by the strange discourse of “foolery,” including the oddities and quirks of the playwright’s rustics, fantasists, rascals, and malapropists. The purpose of this panel and the discussion following it will be to draw out the value in selected moments and scenes in Shakespeare’s plays where a kind of “antic disposition” or (to adapt a phrase from Gerard Manley Hopkins) some point of view that is “counter, original, spare, strange” takes us beyond the conventions and expectations of the straightforwardly tragic or comic, and delivers to us a species of insight that might otherwise remain unavailable.

The Conference is scheduled to take place in San Diego, California from November 14-17, 2019.

Please submit abstracts via PAMLA's website at  Do not send them directly to the panel chair.