Shakespeare in Focus: the Art of Small Things

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Christine Sukic / Société Française Shakespeare

Annual Congress of the French Shakespeare Society

“Shakespeare in focus: the art of small things”

March 14-16 2024

Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe, Cité Internationale, Paris 14e



In his ‘To the memory of my beloved, The Author, Mr William Shakespeare: and what he hath left us’, written on the occasion of the First Folio, Ben Jonson wrote of the poet's greatness, using hyperbole to say that Shakespeare was ‘a monument without a tomb’, or expressing his admiration by metonymy: ‘He was not of an age but for all time!’ Nevertheless, this witty praise was not based solely on images of majesty and magnitude that placed the poet on an epic or heroic level, but rather on a fine balance between the very large and the very small, or at least the detail. Jonson referred in particular to the precision of finely woven lines (‘his lines, / Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit’) or well-turned (‘his well-turned, and true-filed lines’), not to mention the reference to Shakespeare's ancient culture, defined in terms of a small amount (‘small Latin and less Greek’).

In this conference we would like to leave aside for a while ‘these hells and paradises of eternally moved immensity, this infinite, this unfathomable’, in the words of Victor Hugo in William Shakespeare (1864), in which he opposed smallness to ‘ocean men’ as he was writing in his Guernesey house of Marine-Terrace. Instead, we will focus on the details and small or short forms. This can lead us to consider the history of literature or culture by being ‘alerted by the detail’ in order to ‘seek out the possibilities of this anomaly’ as art historian Daniel Arasse stated in Le Détail. Pour une histoire rapprochée de la peinture. Anthropology can also provide us with a methodology that consists in drawing overall conclusions from significant facts (see Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures), but also history, in particular micro-history theorised by Carlo Ginzburg, who spoke of a ‘paradigm of the clue’ using the example of hunting, which was based for centuries on the analysis and classification of ‘infinitesimal traces’ at the origin of a ‘cognitive patrimony’ (‘Signs, Traces, Tracks’).

The detail can be a word, an everyday object, a fact or a moment that carries meaning. Any minute form or any reference to the minuscule can therefore be an object of study; short forms in particular will be favoured, but also minimal changes to words or details in the text. The stage can also be seen as a reduced space or as a place where drama is a process of reduction of history.

Proposals may concern the work of Shakespeare or his contemporaries and their adaptations, and any aspect of the culture and history of early modernity.


We welcome papers on the following topics:


  • Verse, the sonnet, a word, a mark on a manuscript.
  • Small objects such as coins, pieces of jewellery; everyday objects; props, ornaments, accessories.
  • References to smallness or short size (Hermia), small creatures (Queen Mab, Mote, Puck…).
  • Visual arts, especially miniatures.
  • Traces, particles, fragments, details.
  • Micro-history.
  • Gnomic forms, epigrams.
  • Brief Shakespeare and any attempt to summarize Shakespeare or to do “small” or “short” productions.
  • The stage as a place of reduction.
  • Micro-readings, micro-criticism.
  • Etc.


Please send your paper proposal (paper title, keywords and a 300-word abstract) by September 15, together with a short bio-bibliographical note, to the following address:

Answers will be given on October 15 2023. Papers will be 20 minutes long.


Scientific committee:

Gilles Bertheau (Tours)

Louise Fang (Sorbonne Paris Nord)

Patricia Fumerton (UC Santa Barbara)

Jane Kingsley-Smith (University of Roehampton)

Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (Sorbonne Nouvelle)

Mickael Popelard (Caen)

Tiffany Stern (Shakespeare Institute, Birmingham)

Christine Sukic (Reims)

Clotilde Thouret (Nanterre)

Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin (Montpellier)



Arasse, Daniel, Le Détail. Pour une histoire rapprochée de la peinture, Paris, Flammarion [1992], 2008.

Dulac, Anne-Valérie et Céline Cachaud, « Miniatures in the Early Modern Period », Etudes Epistémè 36, 2019. (

Geertz, Clifford, The Interpretation of Cultures, New York, Basic Books, 1973.

Ginzburg, Carlo, « Signes, traces, pistes. Racines d’un paradigme de l’indice », Le Débat, n°6, 1980, p. 3-44.

Hugo, Victor, William Shakespeare, Paris, Librairie Internationale, 1864, p. ix-xvi.

Nace, Nicholas, Russ McDonald and Travis D. Williams, Shakespeare Up Close: Reading Early Modern Texts, The Arden Shakespeare, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.