The second panel of KiSSiT: Shakespearean Thresholds featured philosophical papers from Christian Smith, Sophie Battell and Jessica Chiba. Watch / listen to Christian Smith’s talk on a psychoanalytical reading of Coriolanus and Jessica Chiba discussing being and not-being in Shakespeare. Check it below!
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.
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.