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Shakespeare and/as Philosophy

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  • Date 03 - 04 Sep 2018
  • Time
  • Category Seminar

Shakespeare and/as Philosophy

Room 104, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Confirmed Speakers: Professor Kiernan Ryan (Royal Holloway), Professor Paul Kottman (The New School for Social Research, New York)

Shakespeare is not a philosopher. But his works have long been admired for their capacity to provoke thought – and often thought of a philosophical nature – as attested by the writings of philosophers as diverse as Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx Stanley Cavell, Martha Nussbaum and Agnes Heller. In the twentieth century, the advent of critical theory set the scene for literary readings and theatrical interpretations inspired by philosophical ideas, and in the past two decades philosophical readings, performances, creative responses and practice-based research of Shakespeare have enjoyed a surge of interest. What is it about Shakespeare’s work that stimulates philosophical thought? What can Shakespeare do for philosophy, or philosophy for Shakespeare? How influenced is Shakespeare by the philosophy of his time? And how can we meaningfully read or stage Shakespeare through the lens of philosophical ideas that arise after his time?

This conference aims to explore how the literary and theatrical craft of Shakespearean drama and poetry may produce, or indeed question, philosophical knowledge. Shakespeare is a writer who – perhaps uniquely – enables a conversation that brings together various fields, shedding light on both the possibilities and limitations of disciplinary intersections. We invite a wide range of papers that cut across disciplinary boundaries and methodologies, from philosophy and literary criticism to performance studies and creative practice, to explore the relationship between Shakespeare and philosophy, ranging from the reception of classical philosophy in the early-modern era to post-war continental philosophy and beyond.

We welcome 250-word abstracts for 20-minute presentations from postgraduates, early career researchers, and established scholars from all disciplines on any aspect of the relationship between Shakespeare and philosophy. Please submit abstracts and brief CVs to by Monday 16 July

Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • How Shakespeare has influenced philosophers
  • The philosophical nature of Shakespeare’s literary and theatrical art.
  • The way Shakespeare’s works pre-empt, inform or resist the philosophical developments of later ages.
  • Shakespearean performance as a practice of philosophy
  • Shakespeare’s uses and abuses of early modern philosophical ideas


This is a Royal Holloway’s Humanities and Arts Research Institute event organised by Dr Jessica Chiba, Richard Ashby, and Sam Matthews


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