Saturday, 10 September 2011

Shakespeare, Discworld and other old friends

This weekend I am attending a conference on Shakespeare. Shakespeare is not my primary research object, and I wouldn't have gone to this conference if it had been elsewhere, but since it is on my own campus I am attending it and even giving a paper. The theme of the conference is "Sources and Adaptations" which can include absolutely anything. However, in one discussion we agreed it was quite remarkable that when we say "Shakespeare adaptations" we mean adaptations of Shakespeare's texts by later writers or performers, but not Shakespeare's adaptations of previous work, aka pinching.

The session in which this discussion occurred was on Terry Pratchett's Discworld. It was great. The two plenaries I have attended were fabulous, one by Michael Rosen, the other by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. I didn't go to academic plenaries. I didn't go to many other sessions either. It is tempting, when you are on your own campus, to sneak away to your office and mark some theses that have miraculously invaded my pigeonhole again.

For obvious reasons I don't know many people at this conference, and I can once again state that the gender balance is different from children's literature conferences. I made some acquaintances at the conference dinner yesterday. I asked one of them if she were a Shakespeare scholar. No, she said, she just needed a reason to come to Cambridge. She had found some soap opera with a balcony scene.

My paper is in one of seven parallel sessions, and the audience is small. Just before we start, a very professiorial-looking man enters the room and says, quite audibly, to the other presenter: "I don't care about the first paper, but I'll come and listen to you". Very encouraging. If I were the moderator, I would have switched the order of papers, just for spite (I did it once when I moderated a session, to prevent people from coming and going). At the very end of the discussion, someone in the audience asks: "By the way, what is children's literature? Is it books with simple language?"

Nobody at the conference seems to have heard of the book Shakespeare's Brain. 

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