KiSSiT: Shakespearean Thresholds

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KiSSiT: Shakespearean Thresholds

The third KiSSiT one-day conference is entitled Shakespearean Thresholds. It will be held at the Rose Theatre, Kingston on April 2, 2016. Free and open to everyone!

10.30: Welcome and opening remarks by Timo Uotinen (Gallery)

11.oo: Session 1: Theatrical Thresholds

Jami Rogers (Warwick): “‘This great role has been diminished’: Critics, race and Shakespearean theatre”

Ildiko Solti: “Crossing the line: full light 3D space as a means of provoking the audience into action in Measure for Measure

12.00: Plenary: Kate Aughterson (Brighton): “‘I will tell you the beginning….’: Dramaturgy and Politics in Shakespeare’s Opening Scenes”

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch (Own Arrangements)

14.00: Plenary: Richard Wilson (Kingston): “Come Unto These Yellow Sands: Shakespeare’s Other Heading”

15.00: Session 2: Philosophical Thresholds

Christian Smith (Warwick): “Bestriding the Threshold of the Self and the Other in Coriolanus and The Merchant of Venice

Sophie Battell (Cardiff): “‘The man that hath no music in himself’: Unreceptive Ears in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

Jessica Chiba (Royal Holloway): “Between Being and Not-Being”

16.30 – 17. 00: Coffee / Tea break

17.00: Plenary:  Kelly Hunter: “‘Hamlet, Who’s There’-  Creating a New Production for the Modern World”

‘How fearful dizzy ’tis’:

Cliffs, balconies, windows, walls, battlements, frontiers, ports, shores. Stage, backstage, and auditorium: between waking and sleeping, the theatre and the play necessarily exist on an uncanny bord de mer. Here reality and representation ceaselessly overstep each other, and action is suspended in the ‘interim’ of indecision: ‘Between the acting of a thing and the first motion’. Yet if ‘All the world’s a stage’, and we are ‘merely’ players, then we all have our own ‘exits and entrances’.

The threshold marks both traversal and transition. So, when Romeo asks, ‘What light through yonder window breaks?’ his life opens up to Juliet’s. But the same casement marks a tragic change, when Romeo abandons Juliet: ‘Then, window, let day in and let life out.’ As light ushers in a new reality, it also batters on Macbeth’s door marking a point of no-return: ‘Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou couldst.’

Physical and ritual thresholds delimit both actual spaces and spiritual states. A Shakespeare drama is itself a rite of passage where movement between exclusion and inclusion is negotiated: ‘Who’s in, who’s out’. Thus, from colonial to post-colonial, these works offer a gateway for modernity. Above all, Shakespeare is a privileged symbolic space for defining relations between the self and other, subject and object. For here, too, in the end, ‘The wall is down that parted the fathers’.

By examining such literal and virtual thresholds, this event in the Kingston Shakespeare Seminar in Theory (KiSSiT) series aims to engage with Shakespeare to explore what spaces theatre and literature can open up, and to consider how these works help us to position ourselves today in terms of our own barriers, walls and edges.

About our speakers:
Kate Aughterson: ‘I will tell you the beginning….’: Dramaturgy and Politics in Shakespeare’s Opening Scenes

Bio: Dr Kate Aughterson is currently Academic Programme Leader for Literature, Media and Screen at Brighton University. She is the author of Renaissance Woman (1995), The English Renaissance: An Anthology of Documents (1998), John Webster: The Tragedies (2001) Aphra Behn: The Comedies (2003), and most recently Shakespeare: The Late Plays (2013) as well as articles on Bacon, Middleton, Behn and Marston. She has a forthcoming chapter on Behn’s adaptations of Middleton and Marston plays in the restoration in Aphra Behn: The Seventeenth-Century Contexts (Ashgate, 2017); one on seventeenth-century women poets’ use of the child-birth topoi; one on Shakespeare’s soliloquies in the late plays (for CUP) and is part of a collaborative enterprise of feminist scholars led by Professor Elaine Hobby who will be editing the complete works of Aphra Behn for Cambridge University Press. Kate will be editing Behn’s The Lucky Chance, and The Revenge, should modern computational methods definitively identify it as Behn’s work. She taught art history at the City and Guilds of London Art school, and English literature at the University of Central England before moving to Brighton. Her interests focus on seventeenth-century drama, notably with regard to gender and literature, sexuality and literature, performance culture. Furthermore, she is co-organising the Shakespeare and Education conference on April 29-30.

Richard Wilson: Come Unto These Yellow Sands: Shakespeare’s Other Heading

Bio: Richard Wilson is Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kingston University, London, and author of Worldly Shakespeare: The Theatre of Our Good Will (2015); Free Will: Art and power on Shakespeare’s stage (2013); Shakespeare in French Theory: King of Shadows (2007); Secret Shakespeare: Essays on theatre, religion and resistance (2004); and Will Power: Studies in Shakespearean authority (1993). He has also edited many books on Renaissance culture, including Shakespeare and Continental Philosophy (2014); Shakespeare’s Book (2008); Theatre and Religion (2003); Region, Religion and Patronage (2003); Christopher Marlowe (1999); and New Historicism and Renaissance Drama (1992). Previously Professor of English Literature at Cardiff University, he was until 2005 Professor of Renaissance Studies at Lancaster University. He has been Visiting Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, and Visiting Professor of the Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III). In 2011-12 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Sorbonne (Paris IV). He gave the 2001 British Academy Shakespeare Lecture, and he was 2006 Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe. His forthcoming book is a study of Shakespeare and totalitarianism: Modern Friends: Shakespeare and Our Contemporaries.    

Kelly Hunter:‘Hamlet, Who’s There’-  Creating a New Production for the Modern World

Bio: Kelly Hunter is a highly accomplished actress on stage, film, TV and radio, having been directed by Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn and acted in several RSC, National Theatre and BBC productions. She has been nominated for an Olivier award (1993, Best Actress in a Musical, Lola in Trevor Nunn’s The Blue Angel) and received the 1996 TMA Best Actress Award, for playing Rosalind in As You Like It, directed by Stephen Unwin as well as a 1997 Sony Gold Best Actress Award, for Transit of Venus, directed by Alison Hindle for BBC Wales Radio 3. More recently, she has focused on directing with several productions of Shakespeare in the US and UK, and most recently directing her own adaptation of Hamlet (Hamlet, Who’s There?) currently touring internationally (Colchester, Romania, London, Germany, Denmark). She is the Artistic Director of the Flute Theatre and has created and taught a distinctive methodology, The Hunter Heartbeat Method, which uses Shakespeare to release the communicative blocks within children with Autism—which is being researched in Ohio State University. She has also recently authored two books, Shakespeare’s Heartbeat (2014) and Cracking Shakespeare (2015).

Jami Rogers (Warwick):’This great role has been diminished’: Critics, race and Shakespearean theatre

Abstract: In 2004, the Financial Times critic Alastair Macaulay argued that the role of Othello had been “diminished” by the late twentieth century convention of having only black actors play the part. The threshold for Macaulay had been what he perceived to be another poor performance as Othello. Yet since Paul Robeson’s appearance as Othello at the Savoy Theatre in 1930, language has been a major weapon of critics and journalists opposing ethnic minority performers’ appearances in Shakespearean theatre. This paper examines critical responses by arts journalists and critics to these performances, helping to contextualize discriminatory casting patterns in contemporary theatre as part of a larger discourse guided by the media.

Bio: Dr. Jami Rogers trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and holds an MA and a PhD from the Shakespeare Institute, the University of Birmingham. Prior to obtaining her PhD Jami spent 10 years working for PBS, the American public service broadcast television network, first at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and then for 8 years at WGBH/Boston working on Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery!, where awards included a Primetime Emmy from the Academy of Arts and Television Sciences. Most recently she was Research Assistant on the AHRC-funded Multicultural Shakespeare project at the University of Warwick, where she was the lead researcher on the British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database. She was Visiting Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton in the Drama Department and has taught at the Universities of Birmingham, Warwick and the British American Drama Academy. Jami has lectured on Shakespeare and American drama at the National Theatre in London and works regularly with director David Thacker at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

Ildiko Solti:  Crossing the line: full light 3D space as a means of provoking the audience into action in Measure for Measure

Abstract: The symmetry and balance suggested by the title, Measure for Measure, sits oddly with a play that crosses the line in so many ways – generically (as a problem play), structurally (by muddling up the purpose of the main action as set in motion by the Duke), and emotionally/ethically (none of its characters are above the occasional unsavoury demeanour). Any of these features would frustrate audience expectations and behaviour, but their dominance appears to suggest that such frustration of ‘normal’ beahviour may actually be the purpose of the play. But why antagonise your audience in such a blatant way, or indeed why produce a play in which there is no feature that does not require some, or a lot of, ironing out?

I suggest that the original conditions of production in the full light arena, casting the audience as the streetwise filth of Vienna, makes ‘crossing the line’ their basic function morally, formally (through their leading light, Lucio) and even existentially (as bystanders, they are implicated in a series of ethically compromising situations that are aesthetic as well as (in complete light) fundamentally social. Looking at Act 2 Scene 2 in detail, I will contrast key points in the action as they are realised in a full light amphitheatre and on a proscenium stage, showing how the spatial structure of the visible arena is used to engineer this intensely bizarre engagement which cajoles the audience to tackle, and even relish wrestling with, some quite uncomfortable and impossible-to-solve existential/philosophical problems.

Bio: Ildiko is an actor-director, researcher and teacher. She trained in Dramatic Arts at Macalester College, St Paul, MN, USA. Having returned to Hungary, she obtained her MA at Eotvos Lorand University, and was Artistic Director of an English language theatre company, The Phoenix, in Budapest. In 1999 she moved to London where she has been teaching and conducting research and experiment in performance, focusing on Elizabethan/Jacobean working theatre reconstructions through the method of research through practice in performance (PaR). She holds a PhD from Middlesex University.

Christian Smith (Warwick): Bestriding the Threshold of the Self and the Other in Coriolanus and The Merchant of Venice.

Abstract: The encounter between the self and the other as understood through Jean Laplanche’s psychoanalytic theory set in the Hegelian dialectic will be explored using three instances of the word threshold in Shakespeare. Two instances occur in Coriolanus – between Virgilia and Martius and between Aufidius and Martius – and one occurs in The Merchant of Venice – between Antonio and Shylock. The circulation of libido across the threshold, and its distortion into the death-drive and the drive for the accumulation of profit will be explored in these scenes. The role of the threshold as the site for the implantation of enigmatic signifiers or the violent intromission of trauma will be explored for its role in the distortion of libido into death-drive and profit-drive. This is a preliminary experiment (for me) in thinking through Laplanchian psychoanalysis as theory in conversation with Marxism and set in the dialectic.

Bio: Christian Smith is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. His doctoral research looked at the influence that Shakespeare had on Marx, Freud and the Frankfurt School Critical Theorists. In his postdoctoral work, he is investigating the possibility that the ground through this influence traveled may have been the historical development of the dialectic.

Sophie Battell (Cardiff): ‘The man that hath no music in himself’: Unreceptive Ears in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

Bio: Sophie Battell is a PhD candidate at Cardiff University researching representations of hospitality in Shakespeare.  She has a book chapter forthcoming on Shakespeare and Derrida in The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Philosophy (2017).

Jessica Chiba (Royal Holloway): Between Being and Not-Being

Abstract: Where does life end, and death begin? Where does being end? What does ‘being’ mean anyway? What does it mean to be nothing?

When Hamlet asks, ‘To be, or not to be’, he tries to imagine himself in a state of hypothetical annihilation. When Anthony botches his suicide in Anthony and Cleopatra, he is forced to recognise that though he can attempt to take himself to the threshold between life and death, it is not necessarily in his power to cross it. When Richard II says ‘whe’er I be / Nor I nor any man that but man is / With nothing shall be please till he be eased / With being nothing’, he conceives a state of existence as nothing which is not the same as non-being.

But being and non-being are not limited to life and death. Characters in plays have a sort of being that is not identical to the being of the actor, just as fictional characters have a sort of being that is not physical. This paper will examine the threshold between being and non-being in Shakespeare’s works by scrutinising the liminal moments between life and death, between play and audience, and between fiction and non-fiction.

Bio: Jessica Chiba is a PhD Candidate supervised by Professor Kiernan Ryan and Professor Andrew Bowie at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is currently researching Shakespeare and ontology (the study of being). Her secondary interest is in Japanese translations of Shakespeare.

About kingstonshakespeareseminar

Kingston Shakespeare is the home of KiSS, and its offshoot KiSSiT. Both explore the world by thinking through Shakespeare.
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1 Response to KiSSiT: Shakespearean Thresholds

  1. T R Audan says:

    I am enthralled by the fresh insights that I have read on Shakespeare and his works. I am concerned with the breaking down of animal and non animal barriers in Shakespeare’s plays.
    Kind regards, and good luck with your literary critical projects.


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