Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education

British Shakespeare Conference 2016


The British Shakespeare Association Conference 2016 was held at the University of Hull 8-11 September 2016.

Conference reports

The programme and a report of the occasion, as well as a range of testimonials from our bursary recipients, are available here.

  • About
  • Seminars and Workshops
  • Keynote Speakers


Shakespeare lived at a time when the relationship between the living and the dead was undergoing profound change as a consequence of religious reformation. His plays and poems blur the distinction between life, death, and afterlife: Hero and Hermione suddenly appear to be lifeless yet live, with Hermione transformed into a living statue. Described by Macbeth as ‘walking shadows’, the ghostly nature of theatrical mimesis is doubly haunting in historical dramas when the living mimic the dead. After a span of four hundred years, how can actors, directors and textual editors continue to enliven Shakespeare’s plays, and how do they transform their meanings through the very process of revival? Shakespeare breathed new life into ‘old tales’: how do his acts of literary resuscitation transform the material he revived and what it signifies? Alongside consideration of the purpose of remembrance in Shakespeare, this conference will seek to stir up debate about the wider implications of how Shakespeare remembered the past and how we remember Shakespeare.

The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death offers us a timely opportunity also to reflect upon the continuation of his life and art diachronically, spatially from the Globe across the globe, and materially on stage, page, canvas, music score and screen. As Mark Bayer has written, ‘Much like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Shakespeare haunts literary history’. How does Shakespeare continue to haunt us? The second strand of the conference focuses on Shakespeare’s literary, dramatic, and transcultural afterlives. The conference will thus seek to explore the various ways in which Shakespeare’s ghost has been invoked, summoned up, or warded off over the past four centuries. We aim to provoke debate and dialogue about Shakespeare’s cultural and canonical status through a consideration of the more subtle – and ghostly – allusions to his life, death, and art.

Our aim was to ensure that the BSA conference marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death had an international reach and appeals to scholars, teachers, theatre practitioners, and to a wider public. The conference took place in the Grade II listed Derwent Building on the Hull Campus, one of the most attractive academic sites in the UK. The programme included plenary lectures, papers, seminars, workshops, and performances at Hull Truck and the Gulbenkian Centre. There were also be special workshops and sessions directed towards pedagogy. The conference was prestigious event and held in the official run-up to Hull’s year as the UK’s City of Culture in 2017.

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Seminars and Workshops

Studio-based Workshop: The Winter’s Tale

(Matt Wagner and Anne Sophie Refskou, University of Surrey)

The workshop leaders will take participants through a series of practical exercises involving three different key moments of the play, with each set of exercises attuned to the themes of temporality and emotion/embodiment, and then conclude with a brief roundtable discussion. For each ‘scene’, we will concentrate initially on a short selection of lines, but the work and resulting discussion should extend into other parts of the play as well as other key themes of the conference (impersonating the dead, performing Shakespeare, ritual, and memory/remembrance). The workshop should be limited to 12 participants (if possible), though observers will also be welcome, and participants should familiarise themselves with these scenes, and come prepared for some ‘light’ movement work.

For delegates interested in attending this workshop session: please could you familiarize yourselves with the following brief passages, and the speeches/scenes immediately surrounding them:

  • Leontes: ‘Too hot, too hot!’ – I.ii.108-119
  • Time: ‘I that please some…’ – IV.i.1-9
  • The ‘Statue Scene’ – V.iii.94-11

Workshop: ‘Performance Pedagogy in Teaching Shakespeare’

(Tracy Irish; Jennifer Kitchen; Lali Dangazele, University of Warwick)

We would like to lead an interactive seminar looking at the value of performance pedagogy in teaching Shakespeare. Influential philosopher John Dewey wrote: “When an art product once attains classic status, it somehow becomes isolated from the human condition under which it was brought into being and from the human consequences it engenders in actual life-experience.” The weight of Shakespeare’s classic status often isolates him from the life experiences of young people, leaving him only relevant as an examination text.

In considering ‘how the past haunts the present’ in the Shakespeare classroom, we would like to explore this tension between Shakespeare as literary icon and living artist. Throughout the seminar we would share examples of our own research into how the playful approaches and embodied cognition of an ensemble rehearsal room can inform teaching; and we would invite active participation in illustrative exercises. Most importantly, we would use this context and provocation to facilitate discussion around the extent to which such practices allow young people of all abilities and backgrounds to be both emotionally engaged in and intellectually critical of Shakespeare’s text.

Workshop: ‘The Play Really is the Thing: Teaching to Shakespeare’s Philosophical Performance’

(Fred Abbate, Drexel University)

Many academic philosophers – not excepting myself – have always been captivated by the philosophical issues raised in the great plays of Shakespeare. In most cases of teaching and writing about these issues, however, the plays are regarded as texts to be read and analysed. The thesis I intend to argue in this workshop is that dealing with the dramas of Shakespeare as other written works of philosophy and not as works to be experienced in actual performance misses the immense value they can bring to a human understanding of the moral, political, and metaphysical problems they skilfully raise. Shakespeare is not just a great writer; he is an extraordinary playwright whose work is meant to be dramatized, not simply read and analytically parsed like the treatises of Hume, Descartes or Heidegger. To unpack their full significance requires seeing them in action, understanding how their performative settings reveal the challenges faced, for well or ill, by the human problems concretely explored in the play. This entails that seeing the plays – actually participating as an audience in their lived staged or (less ideally) filmed productions – is the most meaningful way to appreciate the things that are missing in our prose versions of those issues.

Workshop: ‘Transforming Shakespeare Education within Institutional and Curriculum Structures’

Workshop facilitator: Prof. Liam Semler (with other members of the Shakespeare Reloaded project: Em. Prof. Penny Gay, A/Prof Jackie Manuel, Dr Linzy Brady, Dr Claire Hansen, Mr Michael Marokakis).

This workshop is organised by members of the Shakespeare Reloaded project which is an educational research collaboration between the University of Sydney and Barker College (Sydney) (shakespearereloaded.edu.au). This 90-minute workshop will comprise two parts: a group discussion, followed by the trial of a gamified learning experience developed by the Shakespeare Reloaded project.

The aim of this workshop is to facilitate exchange of ideas between Shakespeare educators (tertiary and/or secondary) on the topic of how we might transform Shakespeare education within institutional and curricular structures. Participants are asked to consider and reflect on the following questions before the workshop:

  • What types of institutional and/or curricular structures regulate the teaching and learning of Shakespeare where you work or study?
  • Are there common forms of regulatory structures that we all share confront and navigate regardless of country or institution?
  • What are the most detrimental structural limitations in respect to teaching and learning?
  • What are the more positive structural limitations in respect to teaching and learning?
  • What strategies, methods, practices and experiments have you engaged in to transform positively Shakespeare education within institutional and curricular structures?

The workshop will conclude with an interactive gamified learning activity, ‘Shakespeed’, designed to encourage creative approaches to studying The Tempest.

The following seminar will take place on Saturday at 3:30 PM (papers have already been written and circulated, but auditors are permitted):

Intertextual Shakespeare

Sarah Carter and Peter Smith, Nottingham Trent University

Central to both early modern critical study and the theory of intertextuality are concepts such as the plurality of discourse, the mutually informing relationship between cultural ideologies and texts, and the instability of texts. The employment of intertextuality as critical methodology in analysing early modern texts has great potential, not yet fully explored. This is suggested in Carter’s recent essay in Literature Compass, which proposes that the theory of intertextuality can be applied to early modern literature in a variety of specific ways that surpass the identification of references: in the exploration of mythology as a system of meaning; in allegory; in the manipulation and imitation of narrative models and forms; and in satire and parody. This seminar will be an opportunity to explore some of the potential areas of applying intertextual theory to Shakespearean or early modern texts and facilitate discussion of the benefits and possible limitations of this methodology. As such, we feel a discussion of an intertextual approach to Shakespearean texts complies with the conference theme of ‘Shakespearean Transformations’.

Keynote Speakers

Susan BasnettSusan Bassnett

Susan Bassnett is Professor of Comparative Literature and Special Adviser in Translation Studies at the University of Warwick. Among her most influential books are Translation Studies (1980; now in its fourth revised edition), Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (1993), Postcolonial Translation (co-edited with Harish Trivedi, 1998), and Translation (2013). Her current research is on translation and memory. She is an elected Fellow of the Institute of Linguists, elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Academia Europaea. In recent years she has acted as judge of a number of major literary prizes including the Times/Stephen Spender Poetry in Translation Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the IMPAC Dublin prize. She is also known for her journalism, translations and poetry.

Andrew HadfieldAndrew Hadfield

Andrew Hadfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex, and Visiting Professor at the University of Granada. He is the author of Shakespeare, Spenser and the Matter of Britain (2003), Shakespeare and Republicanism (2005), and Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics (2006). Most recently he has edited the Oxford Handbook of English Prose, 1500-1640 (2013) and the Norton Spenser (with Anne Lake Prescott). He has written a major biography of Spenser, Edmund Spenser: A Life (2012), and is currently working on a book on the literature and lying in early modern England, in addition to editing the works of Thomas Nashe with Joseph Black and Jennifer Richards. He is serving as Vice-Chair of the Society for Renaissance Studies and is General Editor, with Paul Hammond, of the Arden Critical Companions series.

Michael NeillMichael Neill

Michael Neill is Emeritus Professor of English, University of Auckland, and Professor of Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. He is the author of Issues of Death (1997) and Putting History to the Question (2000), and of numerous essays on Renaissance and Restoration drama, as well as on post-colonial and Irish fiction. He has edited Anthony and Cleopatra and Othello for the Oxford Shakespeare, The Changeling for New Mermaids, The Renegado for Arden Early modern Drama, The Spanish Tragedy for Norton, and co-edited The Selected Plays of John Marston for Cambridge. He is currently editing The Duchess of Malfi for Norton, and co-editing The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy. He also writes for the London Review of Books, and has occasionally been an actor – most recently as King Lear in a 50th anniversary production for the University of Auckland’s Summer Shakespeare (2013).

Claudia OlkClaudia Olk

Claudia Olk is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Peter Szondi-Institute, Free University of Berlin, and President of the German Shakespeare Society. She habilitated at the Humboldt-Universitaet Berlin (2006), and obtained her doctoral degree from the University of Münster (1999). Her publications include Virginia Woolf and the Aesthetics of Vision (2014), Neuplatonismus und Ästhetik (co-edited with Verena Lobsien, 2007), and Reisen und Erzählen: Studien zur Entwicklung von Fiktionalität in narrativen Reisedarstellungen in der englischen Literatur des Spätmittelalters und der frühen (1999).

Barrie RutterBarrie Rutter

Barrie Rutter is an English actor and the founder and Artistic Director of the Northern Broadsides theatre company based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. He was born in Hull, and after leaving school studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In the 1970s he worked with the National Youth Theatre (where Peter Terson wrote a role for him in The Apprentices) and the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the 1980s he performed in three adaptations by poet Tony Harrison: The Mysteries, The Oresteia and The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus. Rutter founded Northern Broadsides in 1992, and the company continues to perform both at its Halifax base and on tour. He continues to play major parts in many of its productions.

Stuart John SillarsStuart Sillars

Stuart Sillars has been Professor of English Literature at Bergen since 1999, having previously been a member of the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. He now works largely in the area of Shakespeare and the visual arts, in particular the exchange of concept and technique between theatre, illustration and painting, as well as Shakespeare and the idea of character in the early modern theatre. Professor Sillars is joint general editor of Early Modern Culture Online, associate editor of Cahiers elisabethains, and editorial board member of The Nordic Journal of English Studies; American, British and Canadian Studies (Romania); Oasis (New Delhi); and Countertext (Malta). He is on the editorial board of The Greenwood Shakespeare Encyclopedia, for which he is also illustrations editor. He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Sciences; a Visiting Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; and an Honorary Research Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.

Tiffany SternTiffany Stern

Tiffany Stern is Professor of Early Modern Drama at the University of Oxford. Her books include Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (2000), Making Shakespeare (2004), Shakespeare in Parts (co-authored with Simon Palfrey, 2007), and Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (2009). She has edited the anonymous King Leir, Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals, and George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer. As a general editor Professor Stern is, with Brian Gibbons and William C. Carroll, responsible for the New Mermaids play series; she is also an Arden Advisory Editor and is on the editorial board of the RSC Shakespeare, the Greenwood Shakespeare Encyclopaedia, the Queen’s Men internet editions, and the journals Shakespeare Bulletin, SEDERI, The Hare and Shakespeare Quarterly.

Richard WilsonRichard Wilson

Richard Wilson is the Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kingston University, London. Previously based at the University of Lancaster and Cardiff University, he has been a visiting professor at the Sorbonne, a fellow of Shakespeare’s Globe and the academic adviser for the BBC series In Search of Shakespeare. His publications include Will Power (1993), Secret Shakespeare (2004), Shakespeare in French Theory (2006), and Free Will (2013). Influenced by French and German contemporary thought, Professor Wilson reads Shakespearean drama in terms of its undecidability. He is also known for research on Shakespeare’s Catholic background and possible Lancashire connections. He has published over seventy chapters or articles in academic journals, and is on the editorial board of Shakespeare.

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