“There are more things in heaven and earth”: Shakespeare’s philosophy, philosophy’s Shakespeare revisited


Katarzyna Burzyńska (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań)

Annie Martirosyan (Independent scholar, Armenia)


Terry Eagleton once wrote that “it is difficult to read Shakespeare without feeling that he was almost certainly familiar with the writings of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Wittgenstein and Derrida” (Eagleton 1986: 9-10). Following up on Eagleton’s famous remark one feels tempted to say that it is impossible to read Shakespeare outside philosophical reflection. Indeed, the history of numerous intersections between philosophy and Shakespeare is very rich, going back to 1774 when William Richardson wrote A Philosophical Analysis of Shakespeare. Despite this very long tradition of philosophising Shakespeare, after the publication of the ground-breaking books of Stanley Cavell (Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare 1987) and Martha C. Nussbaum (Love’s Knowledge Essays on Philosophy and Literature 1992), philosophical criticism came to a sudden and unexpected halt.

One might suspect that the growing radicalization of literary criticism pushed philosophical criticism as politically naïve to the very margins of literature studies. Since the publication of Political Shakespeare (1985) the early modern has been chained to the “material forces and relations of production” (Dollimore 1985: VIII). Nevertheless, in spite of the brilliant contributions to the Renaissance studies, there is a growing sense that  the new historicist/materialist paradigms have been exhausted. Hugh Grady[1] criticizes the cultural materialist obsessive antagonism to essentialism and modern subjectivity. Kiernan Ryan, a well-known left-wing Shakespeare critic suggests we reclaim the notion of Shakespeare’s universality from reactionary critics and focus more on its actual revolutionary potential in today’s world.[2]

In the light of the growing disappointment with “political Shakespeare” and a burning need to “reclaim” Shakespeare for philosophical reflection we would like to propose a seminar on intersections between Shakespeare’s plays and philosophy. The aim of the seminar is to bring together scholars interested in Shakespeare and philosophical analysis as well as revive the notion of Shakespeare’s universality for both literary studies and philosophy. We would like to invite papers on the following topics (the list is by no means exhaustive):


  1. Intersections of Shakespearean texts/performances/films/new media and philosophical reflection;
  2. Historicist readings of Shakespeare’s plays in the light of various philosophies;
  3. Anachronistic readings of Shakespeare in the light of various philosophies;
  4. Philosophical readings of Shakespearean adaptations and appropriations;
  5. Shakespeare, text and philosophy;
  6. Shakespeare and philosophy of performance;
  7. Shakespeare and continental philosophy;
  8. Shakespeare and non-European philosophies;
  9. Shakespeare and Eastern European/Russian philosophy;
  10. Philosophers on Shakespeare;
  11. Shakespeare on philosophy/philosophers;
  12. Methodology of reading Shakespeare through philosophy.


Approach: The deadline for abstracts is the 20th of January 2017. The participants selected to take part in the seminar will be asked to prepare their papers by mid-May 2017. Then, all the papers will be distributed among seminar participants. Thus, we will have more time to address some of the issues raised in the papers. During the seminar we will try to round up our collaboration in a discussion of the papers as well any other questions that were raised on the way. Please send your abstracts of max. 300 words, along with a short bio (outlining your research interests, affiliation etc.) to to Katarzyna Burzyńska or Annie Martirosyan.


Katarzyna Burzyńska holds a PhD in literature and is currently an assistant professor at the Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. She teaches translation, conference interpreting and culture studies. Her research interests include early modern drama, feminist studies, existentialism and philosophical analysis of literature. In 2016 she published her doctoral dissertation under the title “The early modern (re)discovery of ‘overhuman’ potential: Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s over-reachers in the light of Nietzsche’s philosophy”.


This seminar deadline has not been prolonged