Shakespeare scholar gets invitation-only chance to visit the Bard’s birthplace

It might seem inconceivable, but IU professor and Shakespeare scholar Linda Charnes has never been to Stratford-upon-Avon.

She taught a faculty seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., spoke at the World Shakespeare Congress in Prague and even gave a pre-performance lecture before the first production of “Hamlet” at London’s Globe Theatre when she was overseas with IU’s International Studies Program, but she has never visited Shakespeare’s birthplace. Soon, she can check that off her scholarly bucket list.

IU English professor Linda Charnes

Charnes will direct an international faculty seminar at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust next month for the International Shakespeare Conference, an invitation-only biennial forum considered one of the most prestigious among those who study the Bard.

Seminar participants include nearly two dozen scholars from around the world, from places such as Argentina, Israel, Romania, Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain and Taiwan. Enrolled to investigate the relationship between agency, intention and outcome, they will contribute papers on topics that include assessing what makes a performance “work”; analyzing different national adaptations of Shakespeare’s tragedies; and Global Shakespeare and the Shakespeare “Olympiad” that took place this summer in London.

“I’m interested in looking at the difference between the task one sets out to do — or your intention — and the outcome, and the vast space between those two,” Charnes said. “It’s an extremely complicated network of processes, with infinite potential for going either right or completely off track. That space between a task embarked upon and its outcome is the space of agency, or your ability to realize your will despite outside forces you might not initially see.”

Her role as seminar director is to find conceptual connections between participants’ essays and to help guide the conversation at the weeklong conference, which begins Aug. 5. The collaborative project could potentially later be published as an anthology, she said.

“It’s a privilege,” Charnes said of directing a seminar at the conference. “The most valuable thing is gaining insight into the perceptions of these scholars who work and teach in drastically different cultures and political systems. It’s exciting, energizing, and I’m looking forward finally to seeing Shakespeare’s ‘second best-bed.’”

Charnes is a professor in the Department of English, which is part of the the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.

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