Alexander Thom: Shakespeare’s Bodies of Law (Special Episode)

As 23rd April is traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday, today The Provocateur brings to you a special one-off episode in honour of the Bardiversary. We are joined by Alexander Thom, a PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham), for a fascinating discussion of the role of law in Shakespeare’s work, in particular the notion of banishment. We explore the relationships between law and literature in general before going on to talk about the significance of banishment as a legal and rhetorical device in the early modern period, as well as how the concept operates in Shakespearean texts. Drawing on how 20th-century thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben have taken up the idea, we discuss banishment as a way of delineating distinctions between the human and non-human, those within the political community and those who are excluded from it. We also touch on the continuing relevance of Shakespeare’s work today, particularly in view of the contemporary plight of immigrants and refugees.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Correction: At the start of the programme it is stated that 2017 marks the 451st anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. As keen-eyed mathematicians will know, it is of course the Bard’s 453rd birthday. Apologies!

Further Reading:

Primary texts (though we mainly discuss the Shakespeare plays):

Christopher Marlowe: Edward IIThe Jew of Malta.

William Shakespeare: As You Like ItCoriolanusCymbelineMeasure for MeasureThe Merchant of VeniceRichard IIRomeo & JulietSir Thomas MoreThe Tempest, Titus Andronicus.

John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi.

Secondary texts:

Agamben, G. (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA:  Stanford University Press.

Elden, S. (2014) ‘Bellies, wounds, infections, animals, territories: The political bodies of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus‘, in Edkins, J. and A. Kear (eds.) International Politics and Performance. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1978) ‘About the Concept of the “Dangerous Individual” in 19th-Century Legal Psychiatry’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 1, pp. 1-18.

____ (1995) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage.

Kingsley-Smith, J. (2003) Shakespeare’s Drama of Exile. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Höfele, A. (2011) Stage, Stake, and Scaffold: Humans and Animals in Shakespeare’s Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Steiner, G. (1975) After Babel. London: Oxford University Press.

Matthew Whittle: Literature and the Legacies of Empire in Post-Imperial Britain

Following on from last week’s discussion of the postcolonial context of modern-day Brazil, today’s episode of The Provocateur turns to what is arguably the most paradigmatic case of imperialism: the British Empire. We tend to think of European decolonisation as a singular moment in time, yet the end of the British Empire spanned the best part of half a century, from the 1940s to the late 1990s. Indeed in some ways, Britain is still coming to terms with the loss of its imperial power and the Brexit debate has only underscored the contemporary salience of British post-imperial nostalgia. So perhaps there is no better time to restate the case for metropolitan post-war writers such as Alan Sillitoe, Graham Greene and Anthony Burgess as explicitly working within a post-imperial context.

In this podcast, I talk to Matthew Whittle, who is Teaching Fellow in Contemporary and Postcolonial Literature at the University of Leeds, about the themes of his new book Post-War British Literature and the “End of Empire”. We discuss the historical context of post-war British writing in the era of decolonisation, in particular Anthony Burgess and Graham Greene, the relationship between British imperialism and other forms of imperialism (particularly the American case) and the continuing relevance of metropolitan understandings of imperialism for postcolonial studies.

You can listen to part one of the podcast here: 

Part two is here: