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Calls for Papers > Subjecting Shakespeare to the Risks of Philosophy (17-18.03.16)
Subjecting Shakespeare to the Risks of Philosophy (17-18.03.16)
Published by Admin on 2014/5/7 (1716 reads)

“Hast any philosophy in thee?” [1]:

Subjecting Shakespeare to the Risks of Philosophy

International Conference (in French and English languages):

Thursday 17th-Friday 18th MARCH 2016 – 400TH Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death

Co-organised by Pr. Pascale Drouet (Department of English Studies, University of Poitiers) and Pr. Philippe Grosos (Department of Philosophy, University of Poitiers), under the auspices of research laboratories

un FoReLL (Team B1 : « Poetics of Representation »), dir. Pr. Michel Briand

un MAPP (« German metaphysics and practical philosophy »), dir. Pr. Bernard Mabille

- With the participation of the Students from the Poitiers Conservatory of Drama, dir. Agnès Delume: Voicing Shakespeare’s texts translated into French by Yves Bonnefoy,

- With the participation of French poet, essayist and translator Yves Bonnefoy: conference and roundtable.

- With the participation of Paul A. Kottman, editor of Philosophers on Shakespeare : conference.

Scientific Committee

William C. Carroll (University of Boston)

Hélène Cixous (CIPH – Collège international de philosophie – et CCEFEG – Centre d'Etudes Féminines et d'Etudes de Genre, Université de Paris 8)

Pascale Drouet (Université de Poitiers)

Philippe Grosos (Université de Poitiers)

Paul A. Kottman (The New School, New York)

Marie-Madeleine Martinet (Université de Paris Sorbonne – Paris IV)


Although Shakespeare wasn’t a philosopher and in his work he showed little explicit interest in philosophy, whether ancient philosophy or in the thinkers of his time, his status in the philosophical world is decidedly different. Indeed, even if the reception of his work by philosophers wasn’t immediate, since the 19th century Shakespeare has attracted considerable attention, notably among major German philosophers such as Hegel, Nietzsche and Schelling. This fascination has continued into our age, to the extent that Jacques Derrida’s interest in the author of Hamlet has led to rich exchanges of ideas.[2]

What do all these philosophers find in Shakespeare’s work, if not philosophy itself? It could certainly be argued, first of all, that behind all these important thinkers (and a great poet and playwright is an important thinker) lies an implicit philosophy. In this respect, to consider Shakespeare philosophically would involve a reappraisal of his philosophical assumptions regarding fundamental concepts, and an examination of his sense of modernity in the transition from the 16th to the 17th century.

Secondly, a philosophical approach to Shakespeare also takes seriously the description that he gave in his own work of the human condition, which embraces all of philosophical anthropology. In this regard, it involves not only studying Shakespeare in his time, but also in all time, in the hypothetical timelessness that he postulates.

Thus the role of the conference is threefold:

- a philosophical examination of Shakespeare’s thought as an example of the birth of modernity, in his critical and conflicting relation with an ancient world from which he irreversibly distances himself.

- an exploration of the reception of Shakespeare’s work within the philosophical tradition. Indeed, this tradition is so rich that one is obliged to acknowledge that philosophers recognized him as a thinker with whom they could engage. This reception has its own history, depending on whether philosophers have read Shakespeare’s work as poetry or drama – they have not found the same realities.

- a consideration of the fundamental concepts in Shakespeare’s work, notably the questions which, over the centuries, have exerted an ongoing fascination for philosophers.

Lastly, subjecting Shakespeare to the risks of philosophy involves rigorous conceptual interpretations, including, perhaps, reading more into his work than he would have intended. But isn’t that also a sign of the greatest thinkers, to be credited for more than they actually wrote? In the end, philosophizing about Shakespeare will also lead to a consideration of philosophy itself, with its pretention of putting into words and taking the risk to see what is always elusive and ever to be questioned. This is the dual requirement—the double risk—of this conference.

Bibliographical Suggestions

Bates Jennifer Ann, Hegel and Shakespeare on Moral Imagination, New York, State U of New York P, 2010.

Bates Jennifer, « Hegel’s Inverted World, Cleopatra, and the logic of the crocodile », Criticism, Vol. 54 Issue 3, Summer 2012, p. 427-443.

Bonnefoy Yves, Théâtre et poésie: Shakespeare et Yeats, Paris, Mercure de France, 1998.

Cixous Hélène, « Shakespeare Ghosting Derrida », Oxford Literary Review, Shakespeare and Derrida, 2012, Vol. 34 Issue 1, p. 1-24.

Cox John D, « Shakespeare and political philosophy », Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 26, Issue 1, 2002, p. 107-124.

Derrida Jacques, Spectres de Marx, Paris, Galilée, 2006.

Drouet Pascale, Mise au ban et abus de pouvoir. Essai sur trois pièces tragiques de Shakespeare, Préface d’Emmanuel Housset, Paris, Presses de l’Université Paris Sorbonne, 2012.

Ferguson Malcolm M, Hoag Ronald Wesley, « Dejection or Joy, As You Like It: Schiller, Shakespeare, and Thoreau », Thoreau Society Bulletin, Issue 261, Winter 2008, p. 8-12.

Grosos Philippe, « William Shakespeare et l’ironie tragique des Histoires », in Grosos Philippe, L’ironie du réel à la lumière du romantisme allemand, Lausanne, L’Age d’homme, 2009, p. 137-155.

Halpern Richard, « An impure history of ghosts: Derrida, Marx, Shakespeare », in Halpern Richard, Howard Jean E., Shershow Scott Cutler (eds.), Marxist Shakespeares, London, Routlledge, 2000, p. 31-52.

Heller, Agnès, « Shakespeare: Philosophical Aspects », Revue internationale de philosophie, Vol. 63, Issue 247, 2009.

Huemer Wolfgang, « Misreadings: Steiner and Lewis on Wittgenstein and Shakespeare », Philosophy and Literature, 2012 Apr, 36(1), p. 229-237.

Joughin John J. (ed.), Philosophical Shakespeares, London, Routledge, 2000.

Kaytor Daryl, « Shakespeare’s Political Philosophy: A Debt to Plato in Timon of Athens », Philosophy and Literature, 2012 Apr, 36(1°, p. 136-152.

Keeping J, « ‘O that this too, too solid flesh would melt: A Phenomonology of Sadness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet », Philosophy Today, Vol. 52, Issue 2, 2008, p. 116-125.

Kottman, Paul A. (ed.), Philosophers on Shakespeare, Redwood City (CA), Stanford University Press, 2009.

Pascucci, Margherita, Philosophical Readings of Shakespeare: ‘Thou Art the Thing Itself’, New York, Palgrave Mcmillan, 2013.

Pierce Robert B., « Shakespeare and the Ten Modes of Scepticism », Shakespeare Survey, Issue 46, 1994, p. 145-158.

Pierce Robert B., « ‘I Stumbled When I Saw’: Interpreting Gloucester’s Blindness in King Lear », Philosophy and Literature, 2012 Apr, 36 (1), p. 153-165.

Penisson P., « Le Shakespeare de Herder », Études philosophiques, Issue 3, 1988, p. 305-310.

Presson Robert K, « Boethius, King Lear, and ‘Maystresse Philosophie’ », Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 64, 1965, p. 406-424.

Smallwood, Philip, « Shakespeare and Philosophy », in Ritchie Fiona, Sabor Peter (eds.), Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge, CUP, 2012, p. 331-348.

Soellner Rolf, « ‘Hang up philosophy!’ Shakespeare and the limits of knowledge », Modern Language Quarterly, Vol. 23, Issue 2, June 1962, p. 135-150.

Stewart Stanley, « Was Shakespeare Thinking Philosophy? », Ben Jonson Journal, 2008 May, 15(1), p. 123-137.

Weitz Morris, « Literature without philosophy: Anthony and Cleopatra », Shakespeare Survey, Issue 28, 1975, p. 29-36.

Weitz Morris, Weitz Margaret Collins, Levin Harry (eds.), Shakespeare, Philosophy and Literature: Essays, New York, Peter Lang, 1995.

Wheater, Isabella, « Aristotelian Wealth and the Sea of Love: Shakespeare’s Synthesis of Greek Philosophy and Roman Poetry in The Merchant of Venice », Review of English Studies, 44 (173), Feb 1993, p. 16-36.


Proposals, with a short notice on contributor, are to be sent by June 15th 2015 to

pascale.drouet[at] & philippe.grosos[at]

[1] William Shakespeare, As You Like It, ed. Alan Brissenden, Oxford, OUP, 1993 : Acte III, scène 2, 21.

[2] Cf. Shakespeare and Derrida, The Oxford Literary Review 34.1 (2012), Edinburgh University Press,; Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx, Paris, Galilée, 2006.

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