Falstaff in Switzerland, Hamlet in Bavaria: Expatriate Shakespeare and the Question of Cultural Transmission

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Abstract

This paper considers some of the consequences of the late eighteenth century canonization of Shakespeare as an indigenously British writer for the performance of his plays in Continental Europe, particularly their hitherto under-studied history of non-professional anglophone performance among expatriates. It examines the conflict between two principal ways of understanding the workings of cultural transmission (essentially, between the notion of Shakespeare as belonging genetically to the English-speaking peoples, and a notion of Shakespeare as amenable to naturalization regardless of ethnicity), as it plays itself out during two periods of international conflict: that of Romanticism and revolution, and that of Modernism and world war. Drawing on diplomatic memoirs, geography textbooks, prologues, vanity-published journals and military archives, it looks particularly at Shakespearean performances by English expatriates and Swiss Anglophiles in Geneva in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, and at productions of Shakespeare mounted by Allied prisoners of war in Bavaria during World War Two. Whose different notions of high culture, ethnic identity and national heritage did these different mobilizations of Shakespeare serve?

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-26
Number of pages25
JournalPerforming the Self. SPELL. Swiss papers in English Language and Literature
Volume24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010