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Will the Modernist

Shakespeare and the European Historical Avant-Gardes


Giovanni Cianci and Caroline M. Patey

Why was the Bard of Avon so frequently on the agenda of avant-garde writers in Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Ireland? This volume explores the rich and diverse landscape of Shakespearean encounters in the tormented aesthetics of pre- and post-World War I Europe. However manipulated, deformed or transfigured, the Renaissance dramatist was revived in infinite guises: verbal, philosophical, visual and linguistic. Was he an icon to be demolished ruthlessly as the expression of a stale past or, on the contrary, did his works offer the foundation for new and provocative artistic explorations? Was he an enemy, a foil, a mirror? As they cross the borders of European countries and languages, the essays of this book interrogate Shakespeare’s living presence and chart the multiple facets of his vibrant and chameleonic afterlives as no single volume has done before. The exploration of territories situated beyond Anglophone boundaries partly displaces the Bard from his given niche in English culture and retrieves lost or marginalized Shakespearean voices. The annotated bibliographies which complete the volume greatly extend the territory of scholarship and offer a precious map of orientation in the maze of critical works.
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Jason Harding – Changing our Way of Being Wrong: T. S. Eliot’s Shakespeare


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Changing our Way of Being Wrong: T. S. Eliot’s Shakespeare1

Persse McGarrigle, the questing young academic in David Lodge’s campus novel Small World (1984), seeks to impress the impressionable with a pretentious MA thesis on ‘The influence of T. S. Eliot on Shakespeare’. Had Persse been a more attentive student of Eliot, he’d have known that the author of the dictum ‘that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past’ anticipated his postmodern thunder by half a century (Eliot: 1951, p. 15). G. K. Hunter claimed, extravagantly, that Eliot ‘virtually invented the twentieth-century Shakespeare in a collection of asides’; a more judicious assessment of the evidence has been performed by Neil Corcoran’s recent study, which argues that Eliot is among the poets ‘manifestly responsible for making Shakespeare the first modern’ (Hunter: 1978, p. 299; Corcoran: 2010, p. 3). Yet the precise nature of Eliot’s modern Shakespeare remains elusive. In 1927, Eliot told the Shakespeare Association: ‘About anyone so great as Shakespeare, it is probable that we can never be right; and if we can never be right, it is better that we should from time to time change our way of being wrong’. According to Eliot, when changing our way of being wrong, ‘nothing is more effective in driving out error than a new error’ (Eliot: 1951, p. 126), recalling the merciless succession of power in Coriolanus: ‘One fire drives out...

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