Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Studies: “Shakespeare Now and Then”
Shakespeare’s astonishingly experimental romance The Winter’s Tale has sponsored a fascinating series of literary, philosophical, and cinematic reflections. It is therefore an ideal play in which to explore genre as concept and practice, as well as a chance to think with a work of art. The play is categorised variously as a late play, a romance, a post-tragic play, a ghost story, and a re-marriage comedy. And it has inspired afterlives in the medium of film as well as print, in novels and poems, for example. This seminar examines the afterlives of The Winter’s Tale as “the book of second chances.” We will examine together the winter’s tales of Jane Austen (Persuasion), George Eliot (Daniel Deronda), Eric Rohmer (Conte d’hiver), Almodovar’s Volver and Talk to Her, as well as the stunning films of the Dardennes brothers (The Child, The Son). None of these works are adaptations of Shakespeare; rather they are meditations on the themes of reconciliation, romance, time, wonder, childhood and change, (re)-marriage, and the power and possibilities of art that his play sponsors or initiates. What narrative possibilities are engendered by The Winter’s Tale? How do such possibilities morph across the philosophical forms of novel and film? And what thoughts do such works sponsor for thinking about the relation between ethics and the arts? This seminar will grant us the opportunity for a long and loving look at Shakespeare’s greatest play, and an ever deepening encounter with it in the work of a fascinating range of novelists and film-makers and in our own lives.