I previously shared the call for papers for the Theatre, Performance, Foucault! workshop at King’s College London on 4 July 2015.
I’ll be presenting on the topic of “Foucault and Shakespeare: Ceremony, Theatre and Politics”. This is the intersection of my two main current projects. Here’s the abstract.
Foucault only refers to Shakespeare in a few places in his work. He is intrigued by the figures of madness that appear in King Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth. He occasionally notes the overthrow of one monarch by another, such as in Richard II or Richard III, arguing that “a part of Shakespeare’s historical drama really is the drama of the coup d’État”. For Foucault, the first are illustrations of the conflict between the individual and the mechanisms of discipline. The second are, however, less interesting than moments when the sovereign is replaced, not with another sovereign, but with a different, more anonymous, form of power. Yet, in 1976, where he treats the theme at most length, he intriguingly suggests that “Shakespearean tragedy is, at least in terms of one of its axes, a sort of ceremony, or a rememorialization of the problems of public right”. Foucault was long fascinated by the theatre, and especially its relation to political ceremony. Drawing especially on his 1972 lectures in Paris and a related presentation in Minnesota, I will begin to sketch how we might understand the relation between ceremony, theatre and politics in Foucault and Shakespeare.