Panel 16: “It’s Shakespearian!”: The critical fortune of a commonplace in France from 1820 to the present

The phrase “It’s Shakespearean” is often used in everyday conversation (such as adjectives like Proustian or Kafkaian). But what does it mean exactly? This panel / workshop means to explore the history of this topos, which finds its roots in an archeology of the reception of Shakespeare in France: in the XVIIIth century first, through the first reception of Shakespeare as was shaped by Voltaire, and above all in the XIXth century, which saw a real passion for Shakespeare in France, a passion leading to some important essays on the differences between national cultural traditions (Stendhal, Hugo, Taine…). This workshop/panel hopes to bring together some translations, biographies, studies of productions, journals or press articles (including purely factual ones), and essays – such as Stendhal’s Racine and Shakespeare (1823) –, and any other kind of documents that can allow us to measure the traces left by the meeting between different national sensibilities and modes of expression in literature, music, painting…. Or even in cartoons… The workshop will focus on the French perception of Shakespeare from 1820 onwards, and on how the cultural and aesthetic differences were perceived and expressed. It seems clear that the cliché “It’s Shakespearian” reveals the deep mark imprinted by Shakespeare and his works on the French collective imagination, but it might be relevant to question the degree of misunderstanding and incomprehension, or even blindness, on which the reception of this Renaissance author in France has been based from the XIXth to the XXIth centuries.

Proposals of about 250 words for a twenty-minute paper and a brief biographical blurb should be sent to Line Cottegnies (->]) and Gisèle Venet ([) by 1st September 2013. Presenters will be notified by 1 October.