Panel 17: Shakespeare and the Popular Culture within/beyond the Asian Identities

In the rapid process of globalization contemporary approaches to Shakespeare at large have been vastly diversified. Artistic creators and scholars around the world find new challenging ways to express their own cultural perspectives on a wide canvas framed by the name of Shakespeare. In Europe such endeavors to paint various colors of Shakespeare over their indigenous cultures have been incessantly made since the 1800s, initiatively with his plays being translated into the so-called major European languages such as French, German, Spanish, and even Russian. In Asia as well, Shakespeare enjoys a comparatively-short-but-very-unique history of translations and performances. Notably, recent challenges to Shakespeare in many of Asian countries seem to reflect the tendency to pull out their independent interpretations or translations of Shakespeare as a cultural capital over the western world in use of traditional art forms or aesthetics, which are taken uniquely Asian to the both eyes of Asian and non-Asian audiences.

Such recreations provide diverse levels of audiences in the area with double chances to reinterpret Shakespeare through their own perspectives while at the same time providing them a mirror with which to view their own theatrical cultural heritage. Hence, as one Japanese critic Kaori Kobayashi has once pointed out, “ironically, Shakespeare, the icon of western culture, seems to contribute to rediscovering Asian tradition or Asian identity”. Lately in such Asian countries as Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, it has been regarded quite noticeable that new tasks to recycle Shakespeare as potential ways to stand out any specific shapes of their own cultural aspects become prevailing. Undoubtedly their boundary goes far beyond the theatrical world expanding over to other commercial fields of mass media and pop culture.

Taiwan has noticed the proliferation of various styles of musical rendering of Shakespeare in which his plays are vividly rejuvenated. Japan has already positioned as an Oriental center of hybrid, “improper” or “tacky” Shakespeares. Diverse editions of Manga Shakespeare including a homosexual version came out to the market and all female Shakespeare productions hit the stages in Tokyo. In Korea comic adaptations of Shakespeare plays are on sale for the sake of children’s elite education and the plot of Hamlet was recycled for the narrative of a popular online game titled Mabinogi. Film makers from India and China zealously infused the archaic story of Shakespeare’s great tragedies with their real politik. In the Philippines colonized version of Spanish Shakespeare movies were rediscovered with reinterpretations.

Topics of this panel will include, but are not limited to, all the adaptations and recreations of Shakespeare on popular media — TV, music, film, gaming, comics, advertisements, blogs, internet sites etc. — made in mostly across the Asian countries or with at least Asian identities, or any connections with the western appropriation. This panel will particularly explore various questions concerning the ways in which Shakespeare has been commercially appropriated and circulated in the areas of popular media, and the issues of Shakespeare interacting with popular culture in Asian perspectives. The panel, consequently, will be a subjective arena to tackle with a new definition of such a controversial term “Asian Shakespeare/s” and its pertinent political and cultural discourses.

Proposals of about 250 words for a twenty-minute paper, plus a short bio should be sent to Kang Kim ([->]) by 20th August 2013. Decision will be announced in early September.