Avant-Garde Shakespeares/Shakespeare in the Avant-Garde


Aleksandra Sakowska, The Shakespeare Institute (UK),

Lucian Ghita, Clemson University (USA)


This seminar seeks to explore the relationships between Shakespeare and the avant-garde, understood both as a historically-determined formation and as a larger discursive impulse that seeks to break down aesthetic norms and conventions. As the title of the seminar suggests, the two terms are historically and theatrically contingent. We will address questions about the avant-garde pedigree of Shakespeare and the Shakespearean pedigree of the avant-garde. Shakespeare did not provide a mere blank slate on which the avant-garde artists could project their thoughts and concerns. Rather, the traffic of ideas and influence was two-directional. The avant-garde pioneers were culturally conditioned to punctuate certain aspects of Shakespeare’s plays that had received little or no critical attention until that point. In turn, their experimental approaches have profoundly reshaped how we perform and think about Shakespeare nowadays, and have opened up new ways to imagine Renaissance theatre more broadly.

Shakespeare played a crucial role in the development of the avant-garde movements that emerged at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Shakespearean ideas and themes were at the forefront of major textual and theatrical experimentations throughout the long twentieth century: from Alfred Jarry’s Macbeth-inspired farce Ubu roi and Harley Granville-Barker’s Savoy productions to Bertold Brecht’s ground-breaking adaptation of Coriolanus and Peter Brook’s postwar experimental reworkings of Titus Andronicus and Hamlet. Although the seminar’s main focus is on Shakespeare’s theatrical afterlives, we welcome contributions on Shakespeare’s relationship with other artistic incarnations of the avant-garde (film, visual arts, dance, music, etc.). We invite participants to submit papers focusing on (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • Shakespeare in the historical avant-garde (France, Germany, England, Poland, Italy)
  • Revolutions in Shakespeare ; Shakespearean revolutions
  • Theorizations of “avant-garde Shakespeare”
  • Shakespeare after Jan Kott
  • Major events in the avant-garde’s reception of Shakespeare
  • Symbolist/Dada/Surrealist/Expressionist Shakespeares
  • Elizabethan genealogies of the avant-garde
  • Post-1945 experimental rewritings and appropriations of Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare and the European avant-garde film
  • Shakespeare in the East-European Avant-Garde Theatre


Please send 150-word abstracts and biographies to before 31 March 2017.