‘The Slavs’ great capacity for hero worship, particularly for the man of intellect, has given Shakespeare as high a place in their estimation as we would give a military hero returning from a victory’ (Cyril Bryner, 1941).
‘Shakespeare. Change his name into a mountain, and it will surpass the Himalayas…Before his appearance the world was incomplete’ (Sándor Petőfi, 1847[[Quoted in Zdeněk Stříbrný, Shakespeare in Eastern Europe.]]).
This seminar will study Shakespeare’s adoption and adaptation within the countries of Eastern and East-Central Europe, including those comprising the former USSR. Angles such as the historic, cultural, political, theatrical, and translation studies will be considered.
Shakespeare’s journey in Central and Eastern Europe goes as far back as tours of English comedians during his lifetime and soon after his death to the court of Zygmunt III of Poland. The 18th century saw the first attempts at appropriating and adapting his work in the Russian language, with Sumarokov’s first quasi-translation of Hamlet. The age of National movements in European cultural and political life continued well into the 19th century, as did admiration for Shakespeare. In Russia of the Romantic era, Shakespeare and Byron were two major sources of inspiration for poets, artists and composers. Tchaikovsky dreamt of composing an opera based on Hamlet, but he found the Danish Prince’s irony untranslatable into music. However, he did not shrink from composing incidental music and symphonic pieces based on Shakespeare’s plays. Apart from productions, translations, and adaptations, studies and analysis of Shakespeare’s plays began to appear. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the arrival of Socialist doctrines brought more overtly political shades into Shakespeare productions, along with experimental interpretations especially during the avant-garde 20s and early 30s. Wartime Shakespeare took various shapes and colours to fit the purposes and morale of the various nations – for example, certain more introspective plays such as Hamlet were absent from most Soviet stages. The Thaw saw two great cinema adaptations of Shakespeare by Grigori Kozintsev, as well as many key Shakespeare studies, such as Jan Kott’s, Shakespeare our contemporary (1964).
Discussion topics for the seminar include but are not limited to:
- History of Shakespeare translations into Slavic/ Central and Eastern European languages
- Shakespeare stage productions in the (former) Eastern Bloc
- Shakespeare and the Soviet Union
- Shakespeare and Russian/Soviet music
- Shakespeare and cinema in the (former) Eastern Bloc
- Shakespeare studies in Slavic/ Central and Eastern European countries
Please submit abstracts (200-300 words) and brief biography (c.150 words) including your affiliation by 1 August 2013 to the seminar convenors: Michelle Assay (->firstname.lastname@example.org]) and Professor David Fanning ([).