Research Group The Bergen Shakespeare and Drama Network

The tenth BSDN meeting in Lisbon

The tenth BSDN meeting took place in Lisbon in October 2015

Meeting in Lisbon

The tenth BSDN meeting took place in Lisbon in October 2015.

Its theme was Shakespeare and the Idea of the Canon, addressing questions to do with the Shakespeare canon as well as Shakespeare as part of a larger canon of Western or global literature and culture. Participating in the meeting were:

James Taabu Busimba, who talked about canonicity and Shakespeare’s role in Ugandan school curriculums

Helen Cooper, whose paper addressed Shakespeare apocrypha and the dangers of dramatizing Tudor history while Elizabeth was still alive

Fernando Cioni, who presented Hamlet’s stage history and canonization in an Italian context

John-Wilhelm Flattun, who spoke on Shakespeare’s relationship to the Arthurian canon and the curious and unusual scarcity of references to it in Shakespeare

Michael Hattaway, whose paper included an overview of the question of the canon in previous scholarship as well as a discussion about King John in the context of the Magna Carta anniversary

Rui Carvalho Homem, who presented a wide-ranging, scholarly Shakespeare translation series into Portuguese, and its influence (or lack thereof) on the Portuguese cultural sphere

Perry McPartland, whose close-reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream challenged some ideas about that play’s relationship to art

Charles Moseley, who discussed Shakespeare’s relationship to “canon” as a concept in his own time

Svenn-Arve Myklebost, who spoke on how Shakespeare reception on the fringes of the acceptable and sane might affect the canon


Stuart Sillars, who introduced and summarized the proceedings, with the usual clarity of perception and expression.

What became even clearer as this meeting concluded was that the idea of the canon represents a plethora of theoretical, scholarly and practical challenges, and that it intersects with a great number of other subjects, many of which have been at the centre of earlier BSDN meetings or meetings in fora related to the BSDN. The fact that these subjects range from adaptation and configuration to editing and textual scholarship, across a whole spectrum of cultural concerns, illustrates the need for a transdisciplinary and wide-ranging, yet stringent and concentrated effort to untangle the most serious issues at the core of the canon: Where does the idea of a (Shakespearean) canon come from? How is it construed and constructed? How does the idea of the canon affect scholarship and vice versa? What is the position of the canon in the cultural imaginary? What role does the idea of the canon play in transcultural and transnational exchanges? What are the politics of the canon? The list of questions is extensive; the responses could be valuable and instructive. At this stage we can only conclude that more work needs to be done in this field.