Panel 15: Celebrating Shakespeare: Commemoration and Cultural Memory

For the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, this panel will interpret, critique and theorize the practice of commemoration itself. We aim to provide a perspective on how Shakespeare has entered into cultural memory: as a symbol of national identities, of European culture, even of a global “cultural capital.” In three papers that examine different kinds of commemoration, we propose to explore its inevitably conflicting political and cultural investments in relation to their specific historical and cultural exigencies.

For example, that Shakespeare commemoration informs and is informed by an English identity might seem obvious, yet a tension between claims that Shakespeare is a “universal bard” who speaks to and for people of all nations and Shakespeare as a quintessentially English poet, has long existed. As a recent anthology demonstrates, to a great extent, an American identity came to depend on familiarity with Shakespeare (Kahn, Nathans, Godfrey 2010). Yet, it has also been argued, America’s Shakespearean commemorations tended to efface racial, class, and gender divisions.

Another recent collection of essays examining “the culturally constructed symbiosis between Shakespeare and England” reminds us that “England” or especially “Britain” are themselves constructions rather than realities of unified, cohesive national identities (Maley and Tudeau 2010: 9). Post-colonial scholarship has helped to pry apart those constructions, by revealing the intellectual and political processes by which Shakespeare became “a colonial battlefield,” a means of both establishing colonial power and, as empires collapsed, of critiquing it (Loomba and Orkin 1998, 2).

Respondents to this call for papers should send the following to the co-chairs, Clara Calvo (->]), Coppélia Kahn ([): name, affiliation, email address, 250-word abstract, and title, by June 30, 2013.