Shakespeare and Actors: 2020 Société Française Shakespeare conference
Paris, France, 9-11 January 2020
Deadline for proposals: 15 Mat 2019
Venue: Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe
Call for papers
“All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” (2.7.139-40), says Jaques in As You Like It, suggesting that playing is inherent to life itself. Throughout their dramatic production, Shakespeare and his contemporaries were keen on showcasing the omnipresence of actors while also stressing the instability of their status. As a theatrical practitioner himself, Shakespeare wrote primarily for his company and his rhythmic language was specifically designed for being projected from a stage. It is thus hardly a surprise to find so many metadramatic and metatheatrical allusions on the early modern stage, from the mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the travelling actors in Hamlet, instances of mise en abyme of the theatrical world abound, emphasising the motif of theatrum mundi. Together, they call for a reflection on the uncertain boundaries between stage and life, and on the material conditions surrounding the acting profession.
Early modern playwrights seldom missed an opportunity to play on the uncertainty generated by boy actors performing female parts, given women were excluded from the professional stage until the Restoration. While sometimes joking on the male actors’ cross-dressing, they also subtly rely on the permeability of gendered identities in the theatre to reconfigure desire. “Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness, / Wherein the pregnant enemy does much,” young Viola cries out disguised as a page in Twelfth Night. If the disguise complicates identities and enmeshes the heroine in a love tangle, however, it also conjures up hitherto unknown feelings in her and helps enact what Stephen Greenblatt called “self-fashioning,” namely the shaping of one’s social and sexual identities.
Yet, dramatists did not always judge actors kindly, for their means of livelihood bore the mark of infamy, contrary to poets. In Macbeth, Shakespeare emphasises the frailty of the “poor player, / Who struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more” (5.5.24-26) and he reminds us of the ephemeral quality of performance. In Hamlet, he makes fun of those who overplay or strive to “bellow” their cues (3.2.2), and finds fault with clowns who improvise at the expense of the playtext. He portrays mediocre, imperfect actors overwhelmed by stage fright, who forget their lines and spoil the part, as in Sonnet 23. We know today that a Renaissance actor’s ability to learn his lines was exceptional. Grammar school education particularly cultivated this skill in children from an early age by making them learn by heart whole segments from the classics. Acting styles were steeped in such rhetoric. Speech acts and passions that were played out on stage were associated with a particular rhetorical form and style, providing a whole repertory of speech codes playwrights used and subverted.
While early modern playwrights nowhere claimed that the most competent actor is the one who best keeps his temper, as Diderot later would in France, some of their characters seem to be born actors in full control of the arts of manipulation and illusion. They are hypocrites in the everyday sense as well as the etymological sense of the term — from the Greek term, ὑποκριτής, hupokritếs, which means “stage actor” or “one who recites”.
In spite of the players’ imperfections at which Shakespeare and his contemporaries delighted in poking fun, showing the play’s seams, playwrights also defended those who brought their own worlds to the stage. Actors certainly needed their support at a time when Puritans were beginning to make themselves heard, threatening the profession. In An Apology for Actors (1612), Thomas Heywood praised the dignity of actors in response to the attacks of such critics as John Northbrooke or Stephen Gosson. An actor had to be multi-talented. He had to memorize, play, sing, dance, improvise, and adjust to the changing material conditions of the stage. Despite very limited rehearsal time, early modern actors were able to produce meaning almost instinctively, and a playwright’s success ultimately depended on the players’ ability to perform their plays. Even today, it is mostly up to actors to update the potentialities of the Shakespearean text and to make characters from the past our contemporaries. French actor Denis Podalydès claims that “Shakespeare is every actor’s dream” (“Shakespeare Album,” La Pléiade, Gallimard, 2016). Playing early modern parts allows actors today to reflect on their own acting style. The actor and his text were indeed front and center in the creative process, in the writing, directing and stage business of early modern companies, which constantly needed to adapt to the changing material conditions of the stage. Such practices may help today’s theatrical practitioners explore the multiple possibilities that are offered to them as they move from page to stage, from collaborative writing to collaborative performance.
This conference aims to bring together early modern scholars, theatre historians, actors, directors and filmmakers to discuss the ways in which early modern drama still enriches our understanding of the actor’s profession and place today in a world which sometimes seems to be nothing but a stage.
Possible topics may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- The actors’ professionalisation in early modern drama
- Amateur practices in the early modern period and today
- The material conditions and organisation of theatrical companies
- The actors’ apprenticeship
- The versatility of the actors who performed in public, private, court, and itinerant theatrical forms
- The praise and condemnation of histrionic arts
- Protection and patronage circuits
- The place of the comedy actor in society
- The rhetorical practices of actors on stage
- Declamation, voice and gestures
- The mise en abyme of performance and actor figures in early modern plays
- Histrions and jesters in early modern plays
- Duplicitous and hypocritical characters in early modern plays
- Great Shakespearean actors, from the 16th century to the present day
- The experience of acting an early modern part
- Early modern playwrights and (collaborative) stage writing
- The representation of Shakespearean actors in popular culture…
Yan Brailowsky (Université Paris Nanterre, Société Française Shakespeare), Sophie Chiari (Université Clermont Auvergne), Anne-Valérie Dulac (Sorbonne Université), Sarah Hatchuel (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Société Française Shakespeare), Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3), Ladan Niayesh (Université Paris-Diderot), Laetitia Sansonetti (Université Paris Nanterre), Chantal Schütz (École Polytechnique, Société Française Shakespeare), Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Société Française Shakespeare).
Please send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 May 2019, with a title, an abstract (between 500 and 800 words) and a brief biographical notice. A few words in the abstract should explain in what way(s) your paper intends to address the topic of the conference.
Letters of acceptance will be sent by May 30, 2019. Selected papers are expected to be submitted for publication in the weeks following the conference for our peer-reviewed online series available here: https://journals.openedition.org/shakespeare/32. We accept only proposals which have not been published previously; however, papers initially published by the Société Française Shakespeare may be submitted for publication elsewhere not earlier than 3 months after publication in our online series.
(posted 15 February 2019)
Anne Brontë at 200: Exploring her Literary Works and (After)Life
17-18 January 2020, University of Bonn (Germany)
Deadline fo proposals: 31 October 2019
17 January 2020 marks the 200th birthday of Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Brontë siblings. Overshadowed by the publishing success of her two sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne has often merely been considered as “[t]he Other One”, as the title of Elizabeth Langland’s 1989 biography puts it, and continues to be neglected by readers and scholars alike. Her debut novel Agnes Grey (1847) was originally published as the last part of a triple decker, in which Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) occupied the first two volumes. Anne’s first and partially autobiographical governess novel was soon surpassed by Charlotte’s immensely popular Jane Eyre (1847), even though there was hardly any overlap in style or content. Anne’s second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), was modified by her publishers, who sought to tone down its radical content. The qualities Anne’s writing does not share with Emily’s and Charlotte’s works – in particular the passionate Romantic individualism and a preference for Byronic masculinity characteristic of her elder sisters’ most famous works – have often been deemed deficits of Anne’s novels. Yet, in her writings she arguably offered a high degree of realism, a surprisingly systemic critique of patriarchal norms, and a sharp ear for dialogue.
Although Anne has received increasing scholarly attention in recent decades, she is seldom the sole subject of monographs or essay collections, and is sometimes even silently passed over where the Brontë sisters are treated as a collective. Anne’s bicentennial offers an excellent occasion to challenge and alter this state of affairs and draw attention to her intensely productive life and her diverse and intriguing body of work.
To join in the bicentenary celebrations, a two-day symposium will be held at Bonn University, Germany, on 17-18 January 2020. For our conference, we invite 20-minute papers on Anne Brontë’s literary works and (after)life. Topics to be explored include but are not limited to the following:
- formal and structural analyses of her writings
- readings of her work in the context of relevant genres and traditions, g. the governess novel, fictional diaries and memoirs
- examinations of her engagement with the dominant and emerging discourses of her time, e.g. religion, education, gender roles, nature, and art
- comparisons between her literary contributions and contemporaneous works other than those by her siblings
- discussions of adaptations and revisions of Anne’s works
- analyses of the youngest Brontë sister in bio-fictions (textual or audio-visual) and popular culture
Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to email@example.com no later than 31 October 2019. The conference is open to advanced students.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Organisation: Prof. Dr. Marion Gymnich, Denise Burkhard, Jacqueline Kolditz, Kathrin Zander
(posted 24 August 2019)
Precarious Lives, Uncertain Futures
University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy, 29-31 January 2020
Deadline for proposals: 1 October 2019
Organized in partnership with Auro University (Surat, India), and with “Challenging Precarity: A Global Network”, this three-day international event sets out to continue the fruitful exchange of debates, ideas and best practices, that began in Lucknow, during “The Cultures of New India” conference hosted at Shri Ramswaroop Memorial University (2017), and continued in Cordoba (“Precarity, Populism and Post-Truth Politics” Conference) in 2018, and in Surat (“Challenging Precarity” Conference) in 2019.
While the previous conferences were focused on manifestations of precarity in the Global South, where certain populations are dispossessed and deprived due to systemic and sustained neglect, ‘Precarious Lives, Uncertain Futures’ is mainly concerned with changes in politics and society, which are reflected in the global mobilization of labour force and the new blurred frontiers of class and belonging.
Indeed, in the post-Fordist era, characterized by the adoption of neoliberal models of development, and marked by extreme flexibility, aggressive competition, and high levels of job insecurity, a new class has emerged: the precariat, a term merging precarity with proletariat. Guy Standing views it as a “class-in-the-making’ in the globalization era, which has eventually created a fragmented ‘global class structure’ (2011, 7). As Judith Butler has recently pointed out, in modern societies “precarity is not a passing and episodic condition, but a new form of regulation that distinguishes this historical time” (2015, vii). Paradoxically, the only certainty we seem to possess is the uncertainty and the vulnerability of our individual and collective condition. The rise of neoliberalism has brought substantial changes in labour-market policies and in immigration laws; nonetheless, all strata of society have been affected as working conditions have been revised, to a greater degree institutionalized and normalized, and, in the words of Isabell Lorey, “thus become a fundamental governmental instrument of governing” (2015, 63). Instead of being regarded as a social liability, inequalities caused by neoliberal forces are, thus, often enhanced and glamorized: but behind the appealing labels of flexibility, freedom, and autonomy in the work place and in life style choice, lurk the specters of isolation, insecurity, and subservience to hegemonic forces. In such a scenario, long-acquired rights are at stake and the future, in its multiple possibilities, looks increasingly uncertain.
The present state of research in precarity demands metaquestions and hence we need to probe both philosophy and practice in light of precarity’s different manifestations. The plural perspectives by which this phenomenon can be addressed also suggest potential for further theorization alongside that of Butler and her critics.
By inviting scholars and experts from different fields and disciplines, and by applying multiple frameworks, methodological approaches, and critical lenses, ‘Precarious Lives, Uncertain Futures’ seeks to explore the different facets of our precarious world, while providing insights into the challenges of our possible futures.
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:
- Precarity and forms of political secessionism
- The casualization of workforces and the new informal labour market
- Migration, refugees and xenophobia
- The glamorization of precarity
- Precarity and social classes
- The cultural aspects of precarity
- The precaritization of academia
- The challenge to precarity of literature and the visual arts
- Populism and the rise of right wing movements New modes and formats in representing precarity
- Migrant /refugee narratives of citizenship
- The language and discourses of precarity
- Precarity and the (mass and social) media
- Precarity and education
- The precarity of women’s reproductive rights (surrogate motherhood, abortion debates)
- -recarity and ageing
- Precarity and dispossession
- Self-precaritization and life style choices
- Planetary precarity: climate change and environmental degradation
- Alternative futures, beyond precarity
Please, send abstracts of individual papers (250-300 words) and a short bionote by October 1, 2019 to:
Acceptance will be notified by October 21, 2019.
Network and conference website: http://icp2019.aurouniversity.ac.in
Link to the University website: https://web.uniroma2.it/home/newlang/italiano
Conference Venue: School of Engineering, Via del Politecnico 1, 00133, Rome
Registration fee (including coffee breaks, lunches, and conference folder): early bird (by December 1, 2019), €100; later registration (by January 15, 2020) €150. No registration on site will be possible.
Mode of payment details will be soon shared on the Conference website.
Further information regarding the accommodation will be posted on the conference website and sent to participants once abstracts have been accepted.
Limited accommodation will be available in nearby hotels at a conference discount rate. Accommodation on campus (50 rooms available): https://campusx.it/camere-roma/ (single room, 43 euros per night; double room, 58 euros per night)
Prof. Elisabetta Marino (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”)
Prof. Janet Wilson (Chair, Challenging Precarity: A Global Network)
Dr Om Prakash Dwivedi (AURO University, Surat)
(posted 16 April 2019)