Seminar 19: Shakespeare and Global Girlhood

This seminar explores the ways in which Shakespeare is employed to define girlhood within and across national and cultural boundaries. When, how, and why does Shakespeare intersect with questions of girlhood? How does Shakespeare reflect, validate, or undermine debates over girls and girlhood? How are representations of girls in relation to Shakespeare (in adaptation, popular citation, or pedagogical practices) employed in conversations on global citizenship and/or national identity? We are particularly interested in papers that identify Shakespearean influence in the study of girls and girlhood in advocacy, education, performance, artistic production (by, about, or marketed towards girls), cross-national politics, neoliberal subjectivity, citizenship, material culture, and health.

How does Shakespeare’s cultural capital influence the discourses of girlhood? The study of girls and girlhood has gained prominence in the past 20 years, marked by the rise of Girls’ Studies and the proliferation of interdisciplinary publications devoted to girlhood. In the United States, the 1994 publication of psychologist Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia was a flashpoint in the legitimization of girlhood studies, linking one of Shakespeare’s tragic girl characters to the definition of Western female adolescence as a period of crisis. Since then, the name “Ophelia” has become powerfully associated with organizations who aim to “save” girls from bullying, eating disorders, and mental health issues (among other threats). International efforts explicitly dedicated to empowering women and young girls—such as the United Nations’ Resolution to designate October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child—reflect the idea that addressing the needs of young women is a global concern. In light of this increased awareness of the status of girls, events such as the assassination attempt of Pakistani blogger Malala Yousafzai—just two days before the first International Day of the Girl Child—reveal the profound and fundamental oppression facing many girls and their advocates worldwide. These tensions inform feminist scholarship on contemporary perspectives on Shakespeare’s girls, as modern productions and adaptations are increasingly set within a global context. Despite the wealth of feminist scholarship on girls in Shakespeare, however, the extent to which Shakespeare’s cultural capital is used to articulate or authorize popular, political, and national definitions of girlhood has not received significant attention.

Proposals should be sent to ->] and [ by July 1st, 2013. Please include name, email, affiliation, brief bio, preliminary abstract (250 words) and title of your contribution.