Panel 26: Shakespeare in French Theory

Schedule / Horaire

Thursday 24 April 2014, 9h-10h30.

Room: V106A.

Leader / Organisateur

Richard Wilson, Kingston University (UK)


  1. Howard Caygill, Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University (UK), author of Levinas and the Political (London: Routledge, 2002).
  2. Ken McMullen, Anniversary Professor of Film Studies at Kingston University (UK), director of Ghost Dance, the 1983 film focusing on Jacques Derrida.
  3. Martin McQuillan, Professor of Literary Theory and Cultural Analysis and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University (UK), author of The Politics of Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the Other of Philosophy (London: Pluto Press, 2007).
  4. Richard Wilson, Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kingston University (UK), author of Shakespeare in French Theory: King of Shadows (London: Routledge, 2007).
  5. Simon Morgan Worthan, Professor of Humanities at Kingston University (UK), co-Director of the London Graduate School, author of The Poetics of Sleep: from Aristotle to Nancy (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).


‘I sometimes think the whole of philosophy is only a meditation on Shakespeare’, declared Emmanuel Levinas; ‘Everything is in Shakespeare’, Jacques Derrida affirmed, ‘or almost everything’; and Michel Foucault, that for ‘dreaming of the freedom to roam, freedom against the world,’ Shakespeare was the ‘founder of modern critical thought’. In answering Levinas’s call to return philosophy ‘once again to Shakespeare’, this panel on ‘Shakespeare in French Theory’ therefore aims to reflect on the irony and surprise that these leading French theorists continued to value the plays so much more unreservedly than their own American and British followers, and to consider what such an unashamed bardolatry tells us about the construction of ‘French Theory’ as a critical practice characterised, as François Cusset has observed, by a hermeneutic of suspicion that drew on Shakespeare’s writing ‘only to expose its faults’.