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This essay collection addresses the paradox that something may at once “be” and “not be” Shakespeare. This phenomenon can be a matter of perception rather than authorial intention: audiences may detect Shakespeare where the author disclaims him or have difficulty finding him where he is named. Douglas Lanier’s “Shakespearean rhizome,” which co-opts Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of artistic relations as rhizomes (a spreading, growing network that sprawls horizontally to defy hierarchies of origin and influence) is fundamental to this exploration. Essays discuss the fine line between “Shakespeare” and “not Shakespeare” through a number of critical lenses—networks and pastiches, memes and echoes, texts and paratexts, celebrities and afterlives, accidents and intertexts—and include a wide range of examples: canonical plays by Shakespeare, historical figures, celebrities, television performances and adaptations, comics, anime appropriations, science fiction novels, blockbuster films, gangster films, Shakesploitation and teen films, foreign language films, and non-Shakespearean classic films.



Chapter 1. Introduction

Despite some critics’ claims that we are in a “post-fidelity moment” in which the Shakespearean text is no longer considered sacred, there is still a lively discussion about how and where to draw the line between what is “Shakespeare” and what is not “Shakespeare.” This essay collection addresses the paradox that something—a play, a film, an object, a story—may not merely resemble its corollary in the Shakespeare canon, but perhaps more puzzling, at once “be” and “not be” Shakespeare. This phenomenon can be a matter of perception rather than authorial intention (audiences may detect Shakespeare where the author disclaims him or may have difficulty finding him where he is named); it may equally be a product of intertextual and intermedial relations, processes that work on the level of semiotics and material substrate, apart from more overt processes of influence and reception.
Christy Desmet, Natalie Loper, Jim Casey

Networks and Pastiches


Chapter 2. “This is not Shakespeare!”

This chapter surveys a number of works by Anthony Burgess—his novels Nothing Like the Sun and Enderby’s Dark Lady, his biography Shakespeare, and his unproduced Hollywood musical The Bawdy Bard, in order to demonstrate continual interpenetrations in his work between historical scholarship, literary criticism, and fiction-making. Holderness then goes on to demonstrate how these different methodologies can be made to interact, introducing extracts from his own short story, “The Seeds of Time.” Underpinned by a cultural materialist study of the presence of Shakespeare in a series of national festivals—the great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival of Britain in 1951, and the London Olympics of 2012—this story uses imaginative methods to pursue a critical inquiry, combining documentary evidence and critical argument with imaginative speculation.
Graham Holderness

Chapter 3. Chasing Shakespeare: The Impurity of the “Not Quite” in Norry Niven’s From Above and Abbas Kiarostami’s Where Is My Romeo

This essay situates the “not Shakespeare” of this volume within the theoretical problematics of the “post-textual.” It re-elaborates the “post-textual” as the uncanny re-appearance of Shakespeare in the form of heterogeneous fragments that are made to cohabit with various textual and media environments. These two films include a “Shakespeare” that is not quite Shakespeare, an “entity” that becomes the site of unceasing transactions (for instance, between an “outside” and an “inside,” between visibility and invisibility, between the “original” and its iteration) and multiple contaminations (through media, characters, and plays).
Maurizio Calbi

Chapter 4. HypeRomeo & Juliet: Postmodern Adaptation and Shakespeare

Jim Casey, “HypeRomeo & Juliet: Postmodern Adaptation and Shakespeare.” This essay combines Douglas Lanier’s Shakespearean Rhizomatics with Jean Baudrillard’s hyperreality in order to more effectively explore the theoretical boundaries of “Shakespeare” and provide a new paradigm for understanding the orismological landscape of Shakespearean adaptation. Pairing the neutrally evaluative tool of rhizomatics with the theoretical concept of hyperreality in order to present a much more accurate relational map, Casey examines Fumitoshi Oizaki’s anime Romeo x Juliet as a perfect example of both the iterative process of translation and the multiple voices of a “Shakespeare” that has become increasingly hyperreal.
Jim Casey

Memes and Echoes


Chapter 5. “I’ll Always Consider Myself Mechanical”: Cyborg Juliette and the Shakespeare Apocalypse in Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga

Hugh Howey’s science fiction trilogy, the Silo Saga, explores the relationship between apocalypse, trauma, and memory, invoking Shakespeare by referring to a play-within-the-novel—The Tragic Historye of Romeus and Juliette—whose title suggests that in this post-apocalyptic world, “Shakespeare” has somehow become “(not) Shakespeare.” In the fictional world of the novel, such a transformation results from the systematic loss and gradual recovery of cultural memory that occurs in the wake of traumatic events. At the same time, the novel dramatizes the coming of age of Juliette Nichols, who becomes “(not) Juliet(te)”—that is, neither Shakespeare’s Juliet nor The Tragic Historye’s Juliette—when she responds to her own personal tragedies and traumatic events by attempting to fix things and prevent future catastrophes. She revises the script that previously defined her, becoming “(not) Juliet(te)”—a tool-wielding cyborg who selects her own profession and rewrites her own prescribed identity.
Charles Conaway

Chapter 6. Guest Starring Hamlet: The Proliferation of the Shakespeare Meme on American Television

The language of the meme—whether understood through Richard Dawkins’s early theories of cultural memetics or through the more recent phenomenon of Internet memes—can enable a discussion of how texts by Shakespeare circulate in culture. Through a process of uptake and reworking, these Shakespearean memes can appear in unlikely places. Here, I consider what I call the ghost meme from Hamlet, studying the appearance of a father-haunting-son story arc in several contemporary television series: Lost, Six Feet Under, Sons of Anarchy, Gossip Girl, and Arrested Development. Through a process of unacknowledged doubling, repetition, and revision, these series give new forms to Shakespeare’s texts, thereby extending the life span of the meme and ensuring its cultural “stickiness.”
Kristin N. Denslow

Chapter 7. Romeo Unbound

An understanding of a Shakespearean character is bound by one’s knowledge of the facts of the text, so there may be little surprise afforded by Romeo’s behaviors in performances of the playtext. Further, understandings of the character are bound by iconic beliefs of how textual facts are activated in performance: audiences already “know” Romeo. However, through the processes of poaching and recycling, one-hour scripted TV dramas can destabilize these assumptions. These TV Romeos echo the character we know but also offer less familiar conceptions of the character: unwilling and unaware or inept and inarticulate lover, S/M fetishist, foolhardy romantic, a Romeo who lives past the end of his narrative arc, an unheroic Romeo, a monstrous Romeo. Through the application of the character traits that the TV Romeos display, constructions of the Shakespearean character might be freed from iconic, constricting assumptions and thereby reinvigorate a character at risk of seeming stale.
Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer

Texts and Paratexts


Chapter 8. Chaste Thinking, Cultural Reiterations: Shakespeare’s Lucrece and The Letter

This essay addresses the fidelity model of film adaptation and the “chaste thinking” of Shakespeare cinematic adaptation criticism. It addresses the current boundaries of Shakespeare adaptation study through an intertextual reading of texts whose castigating exemplarity links sexual violation, female chastity, and political formations: Shakespeare’s narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece (1593–1594), and the William Wyler film The Letter (1940), based on W. Somerset Maugham’s short story “The Letter” (1923) and stage play (1925). These particular literary and cinematic adaptations form a transhistorical conversation, whose shared thematics of chastity and politics is echoed in adaptation criticism as well. Suggesting a dialogical relationship between a famous Shakespeare text, itself both a faithful and unfaithful adaptation of its sources, and a cinematic reiteration of the Lucretia myth that works through inversion and wildly unfaithful gestures, throws additional critical light on the adaptation process.
Barbara Correll

Chapter 9. Paratextual Shakespearings: Comics’ Shakespearean Frame

This essay examines the ways in which a range of comic books are “elevated” to Shakespearean status through various paratextual apparatuses. Drawing on Gérard Genette’s formulation of the paratext, Christopher focuses on the cover images, jacket blurbs, and forewords of two distinct groups of comic books: comics whose connection to Shakespeare are explicit (Kill Shakespeare), and comics without an obvious connection to Shakespeare (BatmanAnimal ManSwamp ThingY: The Last Man). Arguing that paratextual apparatuses aid in the construction of “author fictions,” Christopher identifies a persistent pattern of literary and cultural credibility being established through a paratextual relationship with Shakespeare, so that some comics are eventually refigured as Shakespearean texts in their own right.
Brandon Christopher

Chapter 10. “Thou Hast It Now”: One-on-Ones and the Online Community of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More

Punchdrunk’s immersive theater project Sleep No More (SNM) is a loose combination of Macbeth and Hitchcock’s films Vertigo and Rebecca; lacking substantial dialogue, it is art installation meets dance meets video game, with audiences free to wander anywhere and touch anything, as long as they do not speak and wear a mask. But is this amalgamation Shakespeare? This essay uses both academic and popular responses to SNM to argue that while the production is not substantively Shakespeare, it uses one-on-one experiences to prompt participants to reach back to the Shakespearean text, to analyze their experiences, to consider what makes them Shakespearean, and to ponder Shakespeare’s status in their own lives.
Caitlin McHugh

Celebrities and Afterlives


Chapter 11. Dirty Rats, Dead for a Ducat: Shakespearean Echoes (and an Accident) in Some Films of James Cagney

This essay discovers Shakespearean “commonplaces,” “echoes,” and “accidents” in the gangster and social-realist genre films of golden-age Hollywood (Scarface, The Roaring Twenties, White Heat, Taxi!), which, in spite of their non-Shakespearean natures, provide cinematic intertexts that occasionally resonate with a “Shakespearean presence.” Uncannily prominent in the filmography of James Cagney, the most compelling manifestions of these phenomena coincide with representations of death, as dealt by or visited upon Cagney’s indelible characters. Through juxtapositions of cinematic actualities and Shakespearean textual parallels, this essay illuminates how a work that is not essentially Shakespeare becomes Shakespearean in the act of becoming itself.
Scott Hollifield

Chapter 12. YouShakespeare: Shakespearean Celebrity 2.0

This essay theorizes and historicizes Shakespeare’s enduring celebrity, defined as an embodied cultural narrative and a site upon which the public negotiates present tensions and fixations. Through the centuries, Shakespearean celebrities such as David Garrick and Laurence Olivier have self-consciously intertwined their own celebrity narratives with those of Shakespeare in a reciprocal exchange of relevance and star power; more recently, the diverse platforms available for self-promotion in online media have fundamentally redefined celebrity as a whole and, thus, dispersed Shakespeare’s enduring celebrity from the singular Shakespearean star to a fluidly evolving multitude of participants.
Jennifer Holl

Chapter 13. Finding Shakespeare in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

This essay argues that Luhrmann’s films William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) and The Great Gatsby (2013) bring the two classic texts together through visual and thematic parallels, particularly in scenes that feature Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the titular protagonist of both films. The latter film imagines an alternate ending for Shakespeare’s young lovers, as DiCaprio’s Gatsby becomes a grown up Romeo who lost his Juliet and is desperate to get her back. It is difficult to untangle the complex relationships between Luhrmann and DiCaprio, Fitzgerald and Shakespeare, but an attempt to do so can help unearth another iteration of “Shakespeare” in contemporary culture.
Natalie Loper

Accidents and Intertexts


Chapter 14. Surfing with Juliet: The Shakespearean Dialectics of Disney’s Teen Beach Movie

This essay examines the intertextual relationships between Teen Beach Movie (dir. Jeffrey Hornaday, 2013) and the 1960s Beach Party movies, West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet, and other films and plays. Shakespeare operates as a consistent intertext in order to elevate Teen Beach Movie’s cultural status; to mark the superior intelligence and enlightened sophistication of its young protagonist, a twenty-first century female surfer who finds herself transported to a 1960s beach movie musical called Wet Side Story; and to mark the ironic cluelessness of male teens who are unaware that they are citing him. Despite pervasive and clever uses of intertextuality and self-reflexivity, TBM reifies conservative cultural gender norms even as it openly questions them.
Melissa Croteau

Chapter 15. “Accidental” Erasure: Relocating Shakespeare’s Women in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War Series

This essay examines the gendered investments that participate in determining a work’s status as either “Shakespeare” or “not Shakespeare.” Using Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War novel series and The White Queen television adaptation of her book, which are constructed by its author and her critics as “not Shakespeare,” Meyer argues that these texts nevertheless function as “Shakespeare” by recalling Shakespeare’s history plays and their sources. She considers how and why Gregory’s revisionist historical novels relocate Shakespeare’s royal women—particularly Elizabeth Woodville Grey—in contrast to her redemptive alternative history of Richard III.
Allison Machlis Meyer

Chapter 16. Dramas of Recognition: Pan’s Labyrinth and Warm Bodies as Accidental Shakespeare

Guillermo del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth has no documentable connection to William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The existing similarities between the film’s plot and Hamlet depend on a loose structural homology between the two narratives, which depends in turn on the centrality to both of Freud’s family romance. Even more tenuous, the homology solidifies into identity based on the thinnest of evidence: the heroine’s name, Ofelia. A similar dialectic governs the novel and film Warm Bodies, a zombie drama that also has no discernible relation to Shakespeare—that is, until the late appearance of a balcony reunion between the zombie-hero R and his human love Julie. Here, the identification between novel and Shakespeare source depends on visual evidence from the film and the novel’s critical paratext in the blogosphere. The essay explores the scenes of recognition in these two instances of “accidental Shakespeare.”
Christy Desmet

Chapter 17. Shakespeare / Not Shakespeare: Afterword

This afterword identifies Shakespearean fidelity as a central, largely untheorized issue in current Shakespeare adaptation studies. While stressing that fidelity is only one part of an adaptation’s relationship to its source(s), Lanier offers the theory of “selective essentialization” as a way to conceptualize how adaptations lay claim to some principle of resemblance between themselves and their sources. He then turns to the tricky case of “unmarked Shakespeare adaptations,” adaptations which do not announce their relationship to Shakespeare, to consider questions of attribution, critical legitimation, and the specter of disciplinary imperialism in recent studies.
Douglas M. Lanier


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