Panel 28: Shakespearean festivals and anniversaries in Cold War Europe 1947-1988

When the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft celebrated its ninetieth anniversary in 1954, its declared theme was ‘the co-operation of all peoples in the great work of humanity’ – a statement that may suggest it was concerned less with the commemoration of a Shakespearean past than with the reconstruction of the post-war future. The aspiration proved elusive: within ten years, the Berlin Wall had been built, and both Germany and Europe were split in two. Echoing this political division, the Gesellschaft – belying the idealised unity of its name – was also split: two separate societies producing two separate yearbooks. In the Shakespeare anniversary year 1964, when the original Gesellschaft also celebrated its centenary, the West and East sections convened simultaneously in Bochum and Weimar. If Germany had become the stage on which the crisis of the Cold War was playing itself out, it was Shakespeare, once again, who provided the script.

Given his centrality to the formation of national identities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, how exactly do we understand Shakespeare’s role in the territorial and cultural reconfigurations of Cold War Europe? Specifically, how do we understand the role in these reconfigurations of the Shakespeare festival or anniversary? To what extent did the commemoration, celebration or invocation of Shakespeare in such events engage common points of cultural reference – or articulate conflicting positions of political interest?  Should we conceive the Shakespeare festival or anniversary as a negotiation of international relations rather than a site of cultural memory – or both? How might such events inform our understanding of the political, economic, even military, dynamics of the new global order, such as the occupation and partition of Germany, or the cultural reconstruction associated with the Marshall Plan and the ‘economic miracles’ of post-war Europe?  What role have they played in the process of European integration? Does the Shakespeare festival or anniversary challenge prevailing (and largely Amerocentric) critical approaches to Cold War culture – like Alan Nadel’s influential concept of containment culture? How might we link them to the rise of new theoretical and philosophical approaches to the cultural dynamics of post-war European society and history, such as the Habermasian public sphere, or the Deleuzean model of de- and re-territorialization? 

This panel will seek to explore the political and cultural function of the Shakespeare festival and anniversary in the European Cold War, as well as the impact of Cold War politics on the productions, criticism and scholarship associated with them. We therefore invite contributions from a wide range of European positions and perspectives. Whilst we welcome innovative accounts of central events, such as 1964, we would also be interested in papers that discuss lesser known, even hitherto undocumented events – particularly presentations that draw on archival research to extend the scholarly record of this cultural phenomenon. Our aim is to co-ordinate a historically and theoretically nuanced account of Shakespearean celebration across the divided world of Cold War Europe; but also thereby to contribute to a broader discussion of Shakespeare’s possible role in its re – or dis? – integrated future.

Prospective panellists are asked to submit proposals of maximum 500 words for 20-minute papers to Erica Sheen ->] and Isabel Karremann [, to be received by July 1 2013. We are seeking to compile an edited collection of essays from these papers, so will be particularly pleased to hear from colleagues who would like to develop their work for publication after the conference. We will let you know by August 1 2013 if we are able to accept your paper.