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Sidelights on Shakespeare

Sidelights on Shakespeare

Sidelights on Shakespeare - an Interdisciplinary Seminar Series.

News from Sidelights on Shakespeare can now be found on the Humanities Research Centre website. Visit our page at:

Previous Events ...

‘Shakespeare in Performance’,

Saturday 25th February 2017
Humanities Studio, University of Warwick.

This year we have transformed Sidelights on Shakespeare.

We are holding a one-day event bringing together respected academics and post-graduate researchers to celebrate the current work being done in the field of Shakespeare in performance.

Confirmed Speakers: Dr Jaq Bessell, Director of Studies, Guildford School of Acting,
Professor Tony Howard, Warwick University
Dr Steve Purcell, Warwick University
Tim Supple, Artistic Director, Dash Arts,

Summer Term, 2016

Sidelights on Shakespeare: The Venice Plays

Wednesday 20th July 2016

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon

To mark Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary Sidelights on Shakespeare teamed up with The Birthplace Trust and the IAS International Visiting Fellowship scheme to end the academic year with a special event in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

In July eminent American historian, Professor Carole Levin (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), was joined by exciting, interdisciplinary scholar, Dr Michael Winkelman (Owens Tech, USA) to deliver a pair of lectures on Shakespeare’s Venetian plays.

“I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys’: Shylock’s Turqouise, Queenship, and the Exotic - Professor Carole Levin

"To Preserve This Vessel”: Jealousy, Evolutionary Biology, and Othello - Dr Michael Winkelman

Professor Levin, author of The Heart and Stomach of a King, is Willa Cather Professor of History at the University of Nebraska. She specialises in early modern women’s cultural history and has published extensively on Elizabeth I, queenship, and Shakespeare. Dr Winkelman specialises in a New Humanist approach the verbal arts. His innovative publications, Marriage Relationships in Tudor Political Drama, and A Cognitive Approach to John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets, approach traditional subjects from a scientific viewpoint.

Sidelights on Venice

Spring Term 2016

Dr Velda Elliott, University of Oxford.

Detecting the Dane: shoehorning Shakespeare into genre studies in A level literature.

The main post-16 qualification in England, the A level, has undergone substantial reform in the last two years and is now being taught in its revised form. One (highly popular) qualification offers the option to study 'Elements of Crime Writing' or 'Elements of Social and Political Protest Writing', both genres with recent origins, one in the 1800s and one arguably within the last 50 years. Within this, students may opt to study Hamlet or Henry IV Part 1 respectively. The question arises as to whether these choices are a convenient curricular fiction - simply a way to shoehorn further Shakespeare study into the qualification - or a way of attracting students to the study of Shakespeare through identification with a popular genre or with another which is linked to the politically active inclinations of young people.

This paper explores the realism of these generic identifications, whether viewing the plays through the lens of these genres can be helpful or interesting, and whether it is pedagogically appropriate for A level students to retrofit genre to Shakespeare in this way. These issues will largely be considered through the case of Hamlet as Crime Writing, with additional argument from Henry IV as necessary. I will also consider what the effect may be when students who have read Hamlet and Henry IV in this way move on to study literature at university.

Victoria Elliott is Associate Professor of English and Literacy Education at the University of Oxford. She is a fellow of St Hilda's College. She works with teachers on the PGCE English and the Masters in Learning and Teaching, and teaches qualitative methods to doctoral researchers. She is also an external subject expert for Ofqual. Having studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, she taught English in secondary state schools, and now researches English in Education. She is particularly interested in drama, theatre and literature in the English curriculum.

Autumn Term 2015

Professor Stuart Elden, Professor of Political Theory and Geography, The University of Warwick.

The Territories and Majesty of King John

On 3rd November 2015, our second speaker this year discussed Shakespeare’s play King John around two themes – the question of majesty and that of territories. Majesty is a continual concern throughout the play, described as ‘borrowed’, ‘banished’, ‘resembling’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘the bare-picked bone’. John is seen as a usurping monarch, denying Arthur his rightful inheritance, but by the end of the play majesty has been so diminished by events it is perhaps worth very little. But what is that majesty over? Among other things, it is the lands of the kingdom. King John is one of only a handful of Shakespeare’s plays in which the word ‘territories’ appears. There is one mention in the opening scene, and one in the final act. The first of these had caused editors much confusion, because it is used with a definite article – ‘the territories’ - rather than a possessive ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’ or ‘their’ territories. What might this mean, and what might it indicate? Thinking about these questions of majesty, land, and territories, the talk will discuss how King John and contemporary play The Troublesome Reign of King John anticipate the dual themes of domestic disorder and foreign conquest, found in Shakespeare’s other history plays.


Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at University of Warwick and Monash Warwick Professor in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University. He is the author of five books including The Birth of Territory (University of Chicago Press, 2013). He has been involved in editing several collections of Henri Lefebvre’s writings, and has edited or co-edited books on Kant, Foucault and Sloterdijk.

If you missed his paper, check it out at:

Please note, you will need a University of Warwick Login I.D. and Password to access Professor Elden's paper.

william-blake-trees-at-box-hill-1860.jpgProfessor Gary Watt, School of Law, The University of Warwick.

Shakespeare’s Testamentary Performance in As You Like It

On 15th October, Professor Gary Watt, the first ever speaker in the series “Sidelights on Shakespeare”, returned to Sidelights on Shakespeare to share some fascinating thoughts from his forthcoming book Shakespeare’s Acts of Will: Law, Testament and Properties of Performance which will be published in 2016 on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s will.

Since ancient times legal ceremonies of testamentary transfer have been performed before the witnessing public by actors using props and following the set text of a script. John Austin considered words of bequest to be exemplary of “speech act”. The distinctive performative power of testamentary utterance is attributable in part to the fact that “the tongues of dying men / Enforce attention like deep harmony” (RII, 2.1.5-6), and in part to the transcendental, even magical, attempt to speak across the threshold of death itself and to bind the properties of future worlds with present words. Theatrical performance, like legal performance, is “testamentary” in the way it engages actors to execute the dramatist’s will and playgoers to witness and approve it. The performance is not complete without the complicity of executors and the approbation of a community of witnesses. As You Like It, which in terms of theme and “source” texts can claim to be Shakespeare’s most testamentary play, is also exemplary of the ritual and communal testamentary power that connects legal to theatrical performance.

SoS birthday cake

To all of you who have made Sidelights on Shakespeare possible over the past five years, in particular special thanks go to:

Dr Catherine Alexander (Shakespeare Institute, Birmingham); Professor Jonathan Bate (Warwick); Thomasin Bailey (Organizer); Dr Paul Botley (Warwick) ; Dr Hannah Grainger-Clemson (Editor, Exchanges Journal); John Curtis (Barrister); Susan Dibben (Humanities Research Centre); Andrew Dickson (The Guardian); Professor Thomas Docherty (Warwick); Professor Stuart Eldon (Warwick); Professor Ewan Fernie (Shakespeare Institute, Birmingham); Professor Tony Howard (Warwick); Dr Peter Kirwan (Nottingham), co-founder; Alice Leonard (Co-founder); Dr Raphael Lyne (Cambridge); Anna Marsland (RSC); Professor Jonothan Neelands (Institute of Education, Warwick); Dr Sarah Olive (York); Dr Paul Prescott (Warwick); Emma Poltrack (Organizer) Dr Erin Sullivan (Shakespeare Institute, Birmingham); Stephanie Tillotson (Organizer) and Professor Gary Watt (School of Law, Warwick).

'Sidelights on Shakespeare' has been running at Warwick University since 2010 and its roll of excellent speakers is developing into a who's who of contemporary Shakespeare scholarship. Our objective: constantly to search out, and bring to wider attention, innovative and interesting perpectives on all things Shakespeare.

'Sidelights on Shakespeare' exists to embrace the plurality of Shakespeare(s), both historical and contemporary. Each year our aim is to offer unusual and thought-provoking approaches, presented by scholars working in a diverse range of faculties, disciplines and theoretical fields. Through sideways explorations of the ways in which aspects of Shakespeare are interpreted, packaged, enlisted and attacked, the series identifies what it is that continues to make Shakespeare culturally so important.

If you are interested in helping organize the future of Sidelights on Shakespeare, we would be delighted to hear from you.


Stephanie Tillotson:

S dot A dot Tillotson at warwick dot ac dot uk

Thomasin Bailey:

Thomasin dot Bailey at warwick dot ac dot uk





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