My next visiting talk – and my first overseas talk in over a year – will be at ‘Critical Histories of the Present‘, the 35th Spindel conference, University of Memphis, 16-17 September 2016.
My talk is under the title of ‘Foucault and Shakespeare: Ceremony, Theatre, Politics’. A very early version was given in London last year. I’ll also be presenting this work to the Political Thought and Intellectual History seminar, University of Cambridge on 7 November 2016. Papers from Memphis will be published in the Southern Journal of Philosophy.
Most discussions of Foucault and Shakespeare are around the theme of madness, which appears in several plays and which Foucault discusses in a number of places. Late in his life he also reads King Lear on the theme of parrēsia. These are all interesting discussions, and in the (current) written form I work through these references carefully. But my focus is elsewhere, on the scattered thoughts about ceremony and political theatre which Foucault takes from Shakespeare.
The paper begins with an archived page of Foucault’s notes, and discusses the different references to Shakespeare found in Foucault’s lecture courses, where the themes of deposition and ceremony are crucial. It then reads a number of Shakespeare’s plays around the theme of ceremony, and ends with a discussion of Foucault’s 1971-72 lecture course Théories et institutions pénales.