After yesterday’s Syrian appropriation of Shakespeare, here is news that The Shakespeare Yearbook is going to devote an issue to “Shakespeare after 9/11”, and will sponsor a special session on the subject at this year’s MLA meeting.
In the wake of the New Historicism, much critical work on Shakespeare and his contemporaries has been faulted for its failure to develop and deploy an active sense of historical self-consciousness. Such a failure can be traced to a number of significant tendencies in historicist methodology: the privileging of synchronic analysis over diachronic or recursive) approaches; the conviction that truth emerges as an immanent entity within culture, one that can be teased out by the patient critic; and (more fundamentally) the lack of interest in how meaning functions across time — what is often pejoratively labeled trans-historicist. Not surprisingly, little has been done to think through what it means to read and teach the literary production of Shakespeare and his contemporaries after 9/11.
I am not sure I agree with this characterization of the New Historicism, but I certainly think that Cultural Materialism is ignored in this overview of recent developments in Shakespeare criticism. Critics like Terence Hawkes, Catherine Belsey, or Graham Holderness, to name but a few, certainly explore literary texts in contemporary power relations. The study of appropriations of Shakespeare, as in the new online journal Borrowers and Lenders, similarly considers the ways in which Shakespeare functions in other, and later, cultures. On the differences between New Historicism and Cultural Materialism, I can heartily recommend John Brannigan’s New Historicism and Cultural Materialism (New York: St. Martinâ€™s Press, 1998). But on with the call for papers:
Shakespeare Yearbook hopes to fill this critical gap by seeking out and publishing scholarly essays that take seriously what and how early modern English literature means in a post-9/11 world – a world where strangers can be terrorists, where a heavy coat can be the signifier for a suicide attack or a briefcase can be a dirty bomb, where the workplace, the daily commute, the shopping center, or even the theatre, can be transformed in an instant into a site of mass suffering and death. The journal welcomes scholarship that treats issues of religion, violence, empire, and race in works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, especially in light of post-9/11 readings, stagings, and films of such works.