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Seminar Series 2015-16

Semester 2 2015/16

Director's Seminar: "Victim of Improvisation" in Latin America: Shakespeare Out-sourced and In-taken

Professor Alfredo Modenessi (National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM))

The history of Shakespeare in Latin America spans roughly the same two hundred years as the region’s independent life. Throughout, his works have been the object of performance, translation, and adaptation more than of academic study and discussion. Although that history remains vastly undocumented – especially with regard to Latin America’s Spanish-speaking nations – instead of impossibly attempting to fill in the gaps, this paper sought to theorise towards a comprehensive framework for application to future work on the subject. The chief theoretical tools undepinning the essay were Haroldo de Campos and Silviano Santiago’s elaborations on ‘transcreation’, ‘cultural anthropophagy’, and ‘in-betweeness’, as well as Modenessi’s own work on translation. To suggest significantly common factors more than substantial differences concerning Shakespeare performance in Latin America, only two examples were discussed in depth. The first was an unapologetically rough and dynamic Mexican adaptation of Macbeth to the era of the Mexican Revolution (1910-17) called Mendoza (by Juan Carrillo and Antonio Zúñiga, 2011), a powerful stage production that appropriates the language of Shakespeare's play as much as that of major Mexican writers such as Elena Garro and Juan Rulfo. The second was an uncommon Italian documentary film about an unconventional Cuban performance called Shakespeare in Avana: Altri Romeo, Altre Giuliette ("Shakespeare in Havana: Other Romeos, Other Juliets", by David Riondino and Alexis Díaz-Pimienta, 2010), in which, among other things, Shakespeare's play is "updated" by means of a revered tradition of improvised poetry in Spanish, in Cuba known as "repentismo" ("sudden-ism"). The aim was to thereby outline the strengths of other – mainly recent – Latin American acts of performance based on the complex phenomenon called Shakespeare. This paper is the basis for a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare in Performance, edited by James C. Bulman, forthcoming in 2017.

Director's Seminar: Shakespeare and the (Global?) Gospel of Freedom: Garrick, Cooper, Kossuth

Professor Ewan Fernie (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham)

Ewan Fernie's talk uncovered a confident and insurgent tradition of associating Shakespeare with freedom crucial to the development of modernity but now largely lost. He showed how Garrick both proclaimed Shakespeare's freedom and symbolically gave it away at the first Shakespeare celebration in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769, as well as how materially this was linked to the contemporaneous campaign for specifically political freedom that was spearheaded by John Wilkes. He explored the extraordinary conjunction of Shakespeare and freedom in Chartism, especially within the militant life and work of Thomas Cooper: the Shakespearean General. Fernie finally took his auditors back to an evening in 1853 at the London Tavern on the occasion of a remarkable Shakespearean presentation to honour the Hungarian freedom fighter Louis Kossuth.

Garrick, Cooper, Kossuth: Fernie picked out a pattern in their distinctively activist responses to the Bard. All three made Shakespeare their touchstone, invested with the self-realising charisma of his characters. This they channeled through their own charisma as an achievable and desirable existential goal. It redoubled and dignified their own personalities, but they didn't just glory in that. Instead, they offered up this heightened charisma as a Shakespearean benison for everybody. All of them stood for the fuller, more realised life that will obtain in a transfigured reality, which has an international significance and for Cooper and Kossuth was expressly political.

It is a tradition, Fernie suggested, we would do well to recover today....

Director's Seminar: Shakespeare and Prison in a Global Context

Professor Sheila Cavanagh (Global Shakespeare Fulbright Distinguished Chair for 2015/16)

Sheila T Cavanagh offered an overview of several international projects designed to bring Shakespeare to incarcerated populations in several continents. Drawing from the recent University of Notre Dame (US) conference on the subject and from the World Shakespeare Project’s collaboration with Monroe Correctional Facility and Documentary maker Steve Rowland in Washington State, Cavanagh described the range of programs using Shakespeare and discussed the ramifications of such efforts for the prisoners and for the broader academic community.

Semester 1 2015/16
Director's Seminar: Reflections on the ‘global’ for Global Shakespeare

Sandra Young will present a talk and lead a discussion on the category of the ‘global’ in cultural studies, reflecting on the ambivalences and possibilities of the global view, particularly for Global Shakespeare studies. She will examine the early iterations of Global Shakespeare and invite us to consider whether the idea of the ‘global’ in ‘global south’ carries the same resonance as the ‘global’ in ‘globalization’.

Director's Seminar: Global Shakespeare Through Modern Technology

Sheila T Cavanagh presented a discussion of the ways that global communication can “level the playing field” for educational institutions around the world. Drawing from her experience with the World Shakespeare Project, which uses videoconferencing to link faculty, students and arts practitioners on all continents, Cavanagh provided arguments for using Shakespeare as one avenue for broadening the geographic scope of international educational interactions.