University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Alexa Joubin, “Can World Literature Go Beyond the Nation State? The Case of Global Shakespeare”

October 1, 2018
While postcolonial and world literature critics commonly privilege works that critique the role of Western hegemony, the meanings of Shakespeare in such places as South Africa, Brazil, and India are not always determined by colonial frames of reference. To further our understanding of Shakespeare in a post-national era, it is important to engage with hybrid cultural themes that inform many films and productions. Touring and intercultural Shakespeare thrive in a post-national space, particularly at international festivals in London, Craiova, Edinburgh, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, and other newly emerging and traditional metropolitan centers.

Contradictory myths are the foundation to many conversations about Shakespeare today. Supporting global performances are liberal political ideologies that work against bardolatry and yet condone other aspects of the Shakespeare myth.Two approaches are particularly conspicuous in the application of the global as a myth to Shakespearean performances: the construction of Shakespeare as a cosmopolitan brand and as an aggregate of overlapping localities—the notion that Shakespeare is everywhere in all localities. Site-specific epistemologies inform both approaches. In the process of myth making, multiple localities are brought together to create a deceivingly harmonious image of Shakespeare. The local is not always the antithesis to the global or an antidote to the hegemonic domination that has been stereotypically associated with the West. As such, Shakespearean myths are repositioned beyond national boundaries and traditionally understood colonial authority. 

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