Shakespeare and Postmodernism (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 1998 semester seminar led by Linda Charnes, Associate Professor of English at Indiana University at Bloomington.

How successfully can Shakespeare be read in a post-Enlightenment culture by methodologies that are still rooted in Enlightenment epistemology? Sponsored by the Center for Shakespeare Studies, this seminar juxtaposed theory, method, film, and cultural studies to see what Shakespeare's plays can bring to a post-humanist, and perhaps even post-literary landscape, and vice versa. The seminar explored early modern anticipations of postmodern political cultures in the Henriad; it considered recent mass-cultural film productions of the plays along with other popular uses and deployments of such texts as Othello, Hamlet, Henry V, and Romeo and Juliet. Special areas of focus included: the historical and conceptual tenets of western "enlightenment" and their links to the manufacture of "The Bard" as figurehead; the ideological and technological links between early modern and postmodern subjectivities; and the limitations, as well as benefits, of historical notions of "periodicity" to Shakespeare studies in the future. The seminar questioned the assumptions behind terms such as "modernity" and "postmodernity," and worked to formulate flexible and productively provisional definitions and applications of related terms such as "post-humanist," "post-liberal," and "posthistoricist" to the study of Shakespeare's texts.