Monday, July 14, 2014

Global Shakespeare postdoc in London and Warwick - deadline is SOON

The new Global Shakespeare project at Queen Mary University of London, run by David Shalkwyk and Jerry Brotton, is hiring two 2-year postdocs:

You can find lots more info on the Global Shakespeare collaboration at their new web site.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What hast thou to do with me, old Jephthah?

Illusions?  Allusions?  Both?  I'm reposting this letter from a reader:

Dear Professor Litvin
You might be interested in my discovery of a subtle illusion in Hamlet to the (ancient) Middle East war. As I explain on my website, Hamlet’s mention of “old Jephthah” is meant to point to these lines in the Biblical story of old Jephtha: Judges 11.12
… What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?
Judges 11.13
…Because Israel took away my land… now therefore restore those lands again
I discuss this, and it’s connection with the Spanish Armada, on my free and and ad-free website, “Smith’s Hyper Hamlet”,
Please see the following essays on my website:
I Know a Hawk from a Handsaw – Hamlet and the Spanish Armada
Hamlet in a Nutshell – Hamlet Is an Anti-War Play
How to Love Hamlet –
Ray Eston Smith Jr

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Duwayri's "Shakespeare Rex" as a "belated" reworking

Congratulations to my friend, Cairo University English MA graduate Noha Ibraheem, on the publication of her book: "Belated" Shakespearean Mosaics: Modern Shakespearean Intertexts: Shakespeare Malikan, Mutabilitie and Shakespeare in Love (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2014).  

Those tantalized by Ferial Ghazoul's mention of Raf'at Duwayri's Shakespeare Rex in her article "The Arabization of Othello," or by my very brief analysis in Hamlet's Arab Journey: now you have a more complex and extended analysis of the play, based among other things on interviews with Duwayri himself.

I met Noha Ibraheem in Cairo: She was an outstanding participant in a workshop I ran at the National Theatre Center to introduce Egyptian theatre folk to the Global Shakespeares Electronic Archive.
At the time she was an assistant lecturer at the Department of English Language and Literature in the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University and working hard on her MA.  Meanwhile she found time to contribute to The Cambridge World Encyclopedia of World Actors and Actresses and to work as a scriptwriter, writing "Truth of Illusions," a radio series about Arabs in the US post 9/11. She's currently based in Germany.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Al-Hayat reviews Hamlet's Arab Journey

It's so gratifying to see my work finding an audience among Arab readers. A translation is underway at the National Center for Translation in Egypt; the translator is making steady progress.  Meanwhile, Al-Hayat has published an enthusiastic review,
not only highlighting my major findings (using them to contextualize the recent Shakespeare performance in Jordan's Al-Zaatari refugee camp) but also arguing that my approach is an example for cultural historians in general: "Beginning to rethink this [Arabs-and-West] binary could open the field to a new writing of political and cultural history and the Arab world."  Hurray!

ومن خلال متابعة رحلة هاملت إلى العالم العربي، تستنتج ليتفين ضرورة الخروج من هذه الثنائية التي شكّلت الحاضنة النظرية لأعمال تأريخ العالم العربي، حيث تصارع المستشرقون والمابعد استشراقيين حولها لعقود، من دون أنّ يشكك بها أحد. تخرج ليتفين من هذا التقليد من خلال البحث عن تأثيرات هاملت خارج الغرب، لتجد دوراً هاماً لهاملت شرق أوروبي وسوفياتي على القراءة العربية. كما تخرج عنه من خلال اكتشاف تقليد عربي في ترجمته وتطبيقه، بحيث لا يشكّل الغرب محاوره الوحيد.
بداية إعادة التفكير بهذه الثنائية قد تفتح مجالاً لكتابة جديدة للتاريخ الثقافي والسياسي في العالم العربي، بخاصة في شقّه الحديث، كتابةٍ تعيد البحث في البعد الكوني لسفر النظريات وارتحالها، وتعيد اكتشاف التقاليد العربية في التطبيق، بعيداً من مسألة الأمانة للنص من جهة، أو الأصالة الرافضة للنص من جهة أخرى. فتاريخ كهذا لا يحتمل سؤال «نكون أو لا نكون»، وقد يحرر الوجود التاريخي من ثقل سياسة تلك الصراعات الوجودية وتجاهلها للواقع، أكانت استشراقية أم ما بعد استشراقية.

Seeking contributions: Arab World section of Global Shakespeares Electronic Archive

The Global Shakespeares Electronic Archive needs your help.  We have video and/or descriptions of several productions up on our MIT-based online database.  But the other countries' areas are getting way ahead of the Arabic section.  We could use more material and more help contextualizing it!  In particular:
  • recent Shakespeare-related productions in Arabic: videos, interviews with directors, basic info
  • classic Shakespeare-related Arab/ic plays and films: video or YouTube links, contextualizing info
  • help summarizing, selecting, and subtitling!  We have some great stuff, like Yahya Fakharani's King Lear, that awaits curatorial attention. 
For more details, see  or contact us through this blog.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

NYT on Syrian Refugee King Lear in Zaatari Camp, Jordan

Arab Shakespeare functioned the way he often does in a recent, moving New York Times article by Ben Hubbard, "Behind Barbed Wire, Shakespeare Inspires a Cast of Young Syrians."
A heartwarmer. A breath of fresh air amid the relentless arid struggle that characterizes not only these refugees' lives but also most US news coverage of the Middle East.  More than that, a human interest story, using our familiar old Shakespeare (memories high school theatricals) to humanize the young refugees.

“The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,” said its director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor known at home for his role in “Bab al-Hara,” an enormously popular historical drama that was broadcast throughout the Arab world.

Clumsily spliced (because even though it's a performance of King Lear, it has to end, of course, with an uplifting chant of Hamlet's "To be or not to be"), sparingly staged, the performance seems to have been heartwarming for the participants and their families as well.  If there were many contemporary resonances with Lear and Cordelia's plight, no one mentions them in the NYT piece.  But of course this is Shakespeare's darkest play and not unrelated to the situation in Syria: "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods. They kill us for their sport."

Tangentially related, here's part of what one of my first-year students, Rachel Long, wrote last semester in introducing her midterm assignment, a short-story adaptation of King Lear 5.3 that she set in a POW camp:

This scene, set in recent times in an unspecified region, takes place immediately after Cordelia is defeated in battle by Regan, Goneril, Albany and Edmund. My intention in this scene was to briefly emphasize the descent of law and order into a struggle for power and control. This adaptation would attempt to do so by illustrating how King Lear begins in a structuralized environment where Lear is king with legitimate rules and laws, and is transformed into a structure where those who have power took it through force, namely through a civil war, and manipulation. The rest of the adaptation would ideally emphasize the means by which Regan, Goneril and Edmund plot to strip Lear on all political power.
And her adaptation begins:

Lear and Cordelia were transported in large, battered, old van, crammed full with other prisoners, so cramped that not a soul was able to sit down. As the van drew closer to the camp, the passengers slowly ceased to talk – and in the face of the immediate future neither Lear nor Cordelia could think of a single thing to say. Before this Lear had been quite vocal, imaging a world where he and Cordelia would escape and live by themselves, without cares. He was much relieved to be reunited with his daughter; and it seemed to restore much of his good cheer and sense. That cheer faded, however, not long after the vehicle started moving. Lear and Cordelia simply stood by each other now, holding hands, attempting to ward off the heavy trepidation about their destination, having little hope to give. Their fates were now in the control of Edmund, Regan and Goneril, whom Lear refuses to confront despite Cordelia’s urging. But Cordelia’s pleas fell on deft ears and she soon fell silent as she anticipate what was to come.
Cordelia’s first impression of the war camp was deeply unsettling. The buildings themselves were rather unassuming, having the appearance of large brick barnlike buildings which Cordelia knew used to function as soldier’s barracks many years ago, but now they seemed to possess an aura that screamed hopelessness. The landscape was barren, with no trees or shrubs in the near vicinity. The ground was mostly dirt, with large puddles of mud scattered throughout, evidence of a recent rainfall. A sign by the entrance proclaimed “War Camp Ogden, _________.” By avoiding the terminology “Prisoner of War,” their captors were able to avoid the requirements set by the Geneva Convention, which would guarantee fair treatment to prisoners. But the most disturbing facet of the camp was the lack of life. Other than the soldiers that policed it, there was no evidence of human activity. It seemed to be waiting to devour those unfortunate enough to step foot inside. New, unoccupied, but unspeakably weary at the same time. The entire camp was encircled with barbed wire and had guards posted at regular intervals, insuring beyond a doubt that no captive would escape. And in that moment, Cordelia knew she would never again leave this place.
  Yes, it's good when IR students do literature.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Special Issue on Global Shakespeares, reviews of Al-Bassam and Achour plays

Shakespeare (The British Shakespeare Association) Volume 9, Issue 3, September 2013
Special Issue on Global Shakespeares, edited by Alexander Huang
Video clips that accompany the articles are available on:
If interested in reading an article from the issue please contact Alex Huang (

Alexander C. Y. Huang
pages 273-290
Having reached a critical mass of participants, performances and the study of Shakespeare in different cultural contexts are changing how we think about globalization. The idea of global Shakespeares has caught on because of site-specific imaginations involving early modern and modern Globe theatres that aspired to perform the globe. Seeing global Shakespeares as a methodology rather than as appendages of colonialism, as political rhetorics, or as centerpieces in a display of exotic cultures situates us in a postnational space that is defined by fluid cultural locations rather than by nation-states. This framework helps us confront archival silences in the record of globalization, understand the spectral quality of citations of Shakespeare and mobile artworks, and reframe the debate about cultural exchange. Global Shakespeares as a field registers the shifting locus of anxiety between cultural particularity and universality. The special issue explores the promise and perils of political articulations of cultural difference and suggests new approaches to performances in marginalized or polyglot spaces.

Peter S. Donaldson
pages 291-303
Kinga Földváry
pages 304-312
Giselle Rampaul
pages 313-321
Juan F. Cerdá
pages 322-329
Nely Keinänen
pages 330-338
Anna S. Camati & Liana C. Leão
pages 339-341

Lucian Ghita
pages 342-346
Jyotsna Singh
pages 347-349
Margaret Litvin
pages 350-352
Carla Della Gatta
pages 353-355
Georgi Niagolov
pages 356-358
Jeffrey Butcher
pages 362-364
Review of Shakespeare's Othello (directed by Nikos Charalambous for the Cyprus Theatre Organization) at Latsia Municipal Theatre, Nicosia, Cyprus, 27 November 2010
Eleni Pilla
pages 365-366

Haylie Brooke Swenson
pages 367-372