ShaxInNorth

2 June 2016, Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

Keynote speakers: Professor Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam), Professor Richard Wilson (Kingston), Professor Peter Davidson (Aberdeen)

The four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016 will, more than ever, focus attention on this question: where and to whom does Shakespeare belong?  Much critical work has been done on Shakespeare’s global reach and ‘travels’, especially in relation to processes of colonisation and postcolonial emancipation. Through this work, Shakespeare has been shown to be ‘local’ to many environments across the globe, however problematically. Equally, thinking about Shakespeare’s role in, and appropriation and construction by the various, conflicted, diasporic, devolving and devolved communities of the British Isles has become a critical orthodoxy. Yet what of Shakespeare’s position in locations which, while not seeking independence or devolution through political means, retain a strong sense of being different and separate from official (privileged) strands of national culture? Because they do not fall neatly into the categories of either the ‘nation’ or the ‘colony’, these locations and their engagement with Shakespeare can become invisible and critically neglected. This neglect corresponds with such locations’ perceived and actual socio-political distance from sites of cultural and political power.

We therefore welcome 200-word abstracts for 20-minute papers that might address the following questions or related topics:

  • As we approach another moment of significant reflection on Shakespeare’s place in the world, can and should we speak of ‘Shakespeare in the North’?
  • When we say the ‘North’ where do we mean? What are the North’s edges and boundaries?  How does addressing questions like these affect perceptions and uses of culturally central figures like Shakespeare?
  • How can we extend our understanding of the tensions involved in seeing Shakespeare as a ‘universal’ writer and seeing him as a property of a particular nation, to a micro-level of regional reception, reinvention, and appropriation?
  • In what ways has Shakespeare been appropriated in the ‘North’ of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland? What effects has this appropriation had on Shakespeare and the regions of the ‘North’? How, for example, do Barrie Rutter’s Northern Broadsides challenge understandings of ‘metropolitan’ Shakespeare?
  • What might the function and history of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s annual visits to Newcastle upon Tyne tell us about the role of professional (and amateur) Shakespearean theatre in provincial locations?
  • In a political climate in which Northern territories actively query notions of ‘British unity’ (in both Scotland and Northern Ireland), what relevance might Shakespeare have to ‘Northern’ political autonomies?
  • What theoretical frameworks might be applicable to understanding ‘regional’ or local Shakespeares?
  • What is at stake in the scholarship surrounding the biographical and religious controversies surrounding Shakespeare’s ‘time’ in the ‘North’?
  • How did Shakespeare and his contemporaries demarcate and perceive the ‘North’ and Northern-ness?
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