‘The strangers’ case’ and the ‘tracks’ of performance


Boika Sokolova (University of Notre Dame – USA / London Global Gateway)

Janice Valls-Russell (Research Institute for the Renaissance, the Neo-Classical Era and the Enlightenment (IRCL), University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France)

The questions this seminar seeks to engage with are suggested by two poetic quotations:


Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,

Their babies at their backs, with their poor luggage

Plodding to th’ports and coasts for transportation…

… Go you to France or Flanders,

To any German province, Spain or Portugal,

Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England:

Why you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased

To find a nation of such barbarous temper

That, breaking out in hideous violence,

Would not afford you an abode on earth?

…  This is the strangers’ case …

                   Sir Thomas More, Hand D (Shakespeare?) (1593?)


See how efficient it still is

how it keeps itself in shape—

our country’s hatred.

How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.

How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

Hatred, Wisława Szymborska (1993), (Transl. Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Separated by four centuries as they are, Shakespeare and the Polish Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska express similar concerns about the state of the world they inhabit. Such concerns have become alarmingly pressing today. Even as it enjoys unprecedented ethnic plurality, Europe is again subject to nationalist and racist tensions in a context of migration, induced by economic stress and wars.

This seminar invites prospective contributors to consider plays by Shakespeare and/or his contemporaries, which feature conflicts involving ‘strangers’, whether in commerce, love, or politics, and the performance choices made in a historically specific context. We are particularly interested in studies with a dual perspective, holding in their sights a past and a recent performance, and tracking down changes, or, possibly, historical lessons.

Suggested areas of interest:

  • How have representations of the ‘stranger’ in performance reflected different contexts?
  • How do reviews reflect/model change?
  • How is ‘strangeness’ expressed by casting, choice of period, overall design, revisions to the script, and how this has been received? Has translation contributed to this process?
  • When fears of the ‘outsider/stranger’ are justified by history – e.g., Jamala’s winner song of the 2016 Eurovision contest, ‘1944’ – how has this affected Shakespeare productions and their critical reception?
  • Is fear of ‘strangers’ gendered: are women more feared/rejected than men? are ‘strangers’ more liable to be rejected, challenged, or on the contrary made welcome by men rather than by women or the reverse?

The seminar size is capped to 14 participants, chosen on a first-come-first-served basis and the relevance of the proposal to the seminar topic.


Please send 300-500-word abstracts and biographies to and before 31 March 2017.