Emma Rice and Shakespeare’s “Globe’s future artistic direction”

Globe.jpgEmma Rice became the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in April 2016. Just six months later the theatre has issued a statement on ‘the Globe’s future artistic direction‘. The summary is that Rice will leave the post after two years. The Globe was founded to produce plays in conditions more akin to Shakespeare’s time than modern theatres, and was intended to be a place of performance and of research. I saw several plays there in the term of previous artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, and all the productions since Rice took over. I never saw a Mark Rylance-era production live, but have seen a few on film.

The comments below the announcement showcase the polarising views over Rice’s time. She challenged many of the Globe’s traditions – amplification, pre-recorded music, lighting, stage design and tone of production. This upset many people, but entranced others. I have mixed feelings. Her own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was quite good, and the plays she commissioned there were variable. Macbeth was poor, but Innogen (a renamed Cymbeline) was consistent to its own vision, and while I expected I would dislike it, it worked quite effectively. The Taming of the Shrew, which is a play I know much less well, was updated to the Easter 1916 uprising in Ireland. I went to this with Steve Mentz who provides a really good discussion of it, and Macbeth, at his blog. Not all of the previous productions I’ve seen there, to my mind, worked. In the previous summer season I really enjoyed King John and The Merchant of Venice, thought Richard II and As You Like It were okay, and Measure for Measure was trying to be too funny, too much of the time, for such a dark play.

I certainly don’t want to see, and much less fix, theatre in a museum. But the Globe, at its best, wasn’t that. There are many other places where modern, challenging, disruptive versions of Shakespeare’s plays can be produced, and I often go and enjoy them in just such venues. The theatre is within a short walk of many others that regularly perform Shakespeare – the National, the Old Vic, the New Vic… But I also appreciated the chance to see plays performed in a different, pseudo-traditional way. Rice changed that, for good and bad, at the Globe. At a recent conference I heard some more worrying things about the physical, infrastructural changes to the theatre that had occurred as a result of the installation of new technology. That non-reversible break with the fabric of the theatre is far more concerning than a few productions that are not to everyone’s taste.

I certainly wasn’t intending to miss future productions by her and her colleagues, and will try to get to as many of those in her remaining time as I can. I’m intrigued to see who they pick next. As many commentators have pointed out, why did they select Rice, if they are now going to speed up her departure for doing what it is clear she always intended to do, and which her track-record demonstrates was what she was good at? I’m actually a little disappointed they didn’t give her a bit more time.

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Complete audio recordings of the Early Modern Literary Geographies conference

earlymodgeog-1The complete audio recordings of the  Early Modern Literary Geographies conference are now  available on Soundcloud and iTunes. They include a better recording of my talk on ‘Denmark, Norway, Poland: Regional Geopolitics in Hamlet‘, and talks by Tiffany Stern, Andrew McRae, Julia Reinhard Lupton, Mary Floyd-Wilson and others.

Experts in the literature, history, geography, and archaeology of 16th- and 17th-century Britain examine four key geographic sites—body, house, neighborhood, and region—to illuminate the important spatial structures and concepts that define the early modern engagement with the world. The conference was held at The Huntington on Oct. 14–15, 2016.

There is a short discussion of the rationale for the conference here.

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Network of Concerned Geographers – petition about US geography and the military

NCG_logo_1.jpgNetwork of Concerned Geographers – I’ve just signed this letter and hope others do too.

We, the undersigned, the Network of Concerned Geographers (NCG), are concerned about the growing involvement of the US military in the discipline of geography.

The letter registers concern and suggests the Association of American Geographers establish a commission to review links, on the model of the one done by the American Anthropological Association. See full statement here.

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1967 + 50: The Age of Grammatology « London Graduate School

Link to a conference next year on Derrida’s Of Grammatology.


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Westminster Law and the Senses – Taste, Smell and Touch

Westminster Law and the Senses – Taste, Smell and Touch – all available to download as pdfs.

The series is dedicated to the study of law and the senses, aiming to reflect critically on how law deals with senses, how law senses, and how law makes sense. This involves thinking, discussing and questioning the sound of law, the tactile encounter with its forms, its bitter/sweet taste, its pungent smell, its perspectival gaze.

What is the relationship of law to the senses? In a sense, law, the anaesthetic par excellence, is constantly engaged in numbing the senses into commonsense; manipulating, channelling and controlling the sensible; inserting properties and forbidding contacts; dissimulating violence, regulating sounds and defining taste.

However, senses are not static. Rather, they are shifting and elusive qualities, constantly reshuffled by socio-cultural and technological changes, always dislocating Law’s normativity towards new potentialities. In this other sense, Law emerges from the senses, and whereas senses are a constant arena of legal machinations, they are also Law’s constant blind spot and inescapable excess. Is there then a legal sensing, an illegal sensing, or even perhaps a sensing beyond the Law? How does Law sense? Can Law hear, taste, smell, touch, see? Can Law indulge in sensual pleasures, or is it confined to the anaesthetic arena of common sense? Can senses be a tool to use, know and study Law better? Would this make Law more ‘sensible’, or instead more suffocating?

The Law and Senses gathers trans-disciplinary contributions which aim to critically investigate the sensing of law, the capacity for law to (make) sense, and the possibility for Law to sense differently. The series encompasses five issues, Taste, Smell, Hearing, Touch and Vision, followed by further issues on synaesthesia, sixth sense, sense and sensuality and so on..

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Giving Life to Politics – conference on work of Adriana Cavarero, Brighton, 19-21 June 2017

Giving Life to Politics – conference on work of Adriana Cavarero

Date and Venue: 19th-21st June 2017, Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, University of Brighton

Keynote speakers: Adriana Cavarero, Judith Butler, Bonnie Honig

Deadline for abstract submission: 28th February 2017

Conference Fee: £200 / £100 (concession/unwaged – limited places)

This three-day conference is a sustained engagement with, and celebration of, the life work of Italian feminist philosopher Adriana Cavarero. It also marks the publication of her most recent text Inclinations: A Critique of Rectitude (Stanford University Press, 2016).

Full details here

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David Harvey Marx & Capital Lecture 3: Value and its Monetary Expression

The third David Harvey lecture of the current series – Value and its Monetary Expression

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Reshelving the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room

The renovation and restocking of the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room.

The Scholarly Kitchen

The New York Public Library’s magnificent Rose Reading Room has been closed for the past two years after a piece of ornamental plaster fell from the ceiling. Two years later, the ceiling has been restored, and each of the 900 rosettes reinforced with steel cables, one of the grand public spaces of the city is ready to re-open.

The video below presents a time lapse look at the final steps in getting it ready, including the reshelving of some 52,000 books. There’s something deeply satisfying in watching all those empty shelves get filled, perhaps the book-lover’s version of watching a Zamboni complete its task.

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Books received – Greenblatt, Soussloff, Howe, Graham


Two second-hand copies of books by Stephen Greenblatt, the new collection Foucault on the Arts and Letters in recompense for review work (30% discount here), and two books sent by publishers – Nicolas Howe’s Landscapes of the Secular and Stephen Graham’s Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers.

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Early Modern Literary Geographies – call for book proposals for Oxford University Press series

The conference I attended in California last weekend was linked to a book series with Oxford University Press. I’ve shared details of this before, but it was a while ago, and the first volume is now published, so here is the description again.


Early Modern Literary Geographies

Oxford University Press

Series Editors: Julie Sanders, Newcastle University and Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr, Pennsylvania State University.

Influenced by the work of cultural and human geographers, literary scholars have started to attend to the ways in which early modern people constructed their senses of the world out of interactions among places, spaces, and embodied practices.  Early Modern Literary Geographies will feature innovative research monographs and agenda-setting essay collections that partake of this “spatial turn.”  The term “literary geographies” is to be understood capaciously: we invite submissions on any form of early modern writing that engages with the topics of space, place, landscape and environment.  Although English literature is at its centre, Early Modern Literary Geographies will feature scholarship that abuts a range of disciplines, including geography, history, performance studies, art history, musicology, archaeology and cognitive science.  Subjects of inquiry might include cartography or chorography; historical phenomenology and sensory geographies; body and environment; mobility studies; histories of travel or perambulation; regional and provincial literatures; urban studies; performance environments; sites of memory and cognition; ecocriticism; and oceanic or new blue studies.

Advisory Board:

Stuart Elden, Professor of Political Theory and Geography, University of Warwick

Steve Hindle, W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research, Huntington Library

Bernhard Klein, Professor of English, University of Kent

Andrew McRae, Professor of English, University of Exeter

Evelyn Tribble, Donald Collie Chair of English, University of Otago

Alexandra Walsham, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge

Lesley Cormack, Dean of Arts, University of Alberta

Dan Beaver, Associate Professor of History, Penn State University

Steven Mullaney, Associate Professor of English, University of Michigan

Enquiries to: julie.sanders@ncl.ac.uk and gas11@psu.edu

The first volume in the series is Gavin Hollis, The Absence of America: The London Stage, 1576-1642.


The Absence of America: the London Stage 1576-1642 examines why early modern drama’s response to English settlement in the New World was muted, even though the so-called golden age of Shakespeare coincided with the so-called golden age of exploration: no play is set in the Americas; few plays treat colonization as central to the plot; a handful features Native American characters (most of whom are Europeans in disguise). However, advocates of colonialism in the seventeenth century denounced playing companies as enemies on a par with the Pope and the Devil. Instead of writing off these accusers as paranoid cranks, this book takes as its starting point the possibility that they were astute playgoers. By so doing we can begin to see the emergence of a “picture of America,” and of the Virginia colony in particular, across a number of plays performed for London audiences: Jonson’s Bartholomew FairThe Staple of News, and his collaboration with Marston and Chapman, Eastward Ho!; Robert Greene’sOrlando Furioso; Massinger’s The City Madam; Massinger and Fletcher’s The Sea Voyage; Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl; Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Fletcher and Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. We can glean the significance of this picture, not only for the troubled Virginia Company, but also for London theater audiences. And we can see that the picture that was beginning to form was, as the anti-theatricalists surmised, often slanderous, condemnatory, and, as it were, anti-American.

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