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Bakhtin, Shakespeare, and Theatre

CLIFFORD, HELEN,MARGARET (2022) Bakhtin, Shakespeare, and Theatre. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis makes a case for Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) as a critic of drama. It uses
Bakhtin’s notes for revision of Rabelais and His World, written in 1942, as a catalyst for
exploration of Shakespeare and of drama more generally. In the Rabelais revision notes,
Bakhtin comments on Shakespeare’s major tragedies, identifying patterns in them that
expand on, complicate, and darken the festive, utopian themes found in the main text of
Rabelais and His World. He also discusses drama as a genre, in particular the ways that
meaning is made in theatrical spaces by bodies onstage. Bakhtin is at times openly dismissive
of drama elsewhere in his work but the Rabelais revision notes demonstrate an unprecedented
engagement with theatre. This thesis close reads these notes, exploring them play by play and
concept by concept, then constructs a Bakhtinian aesthetics of drama, split into sections titled
‘Dialogism’, ‘Embodiment’, and ‘Eventness’. The second half of the thesis takes this
aesthetics forward to consider twenty-first-century Shakespeare performance, investigating
each section of its theoretical chapter via different productions. These productions encompass
work by Ivo van Hove, Ian Rickson, Thomas Ostermeier, Punchdrunk Theatre, Robert
Lepage, the National Theatre of Scotland, Caroline Byrne at Shakespeare’s Globe, the RSC,
and the Wooster Group. The thesis concludes with a consideration of broadcast and streaming
theatre and looks at the current moment of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well
as projecting forward to think about uses of technology in performance in the future. The
analysis conducted stands as a reappraisal of Bakhtin as a critic of drama, and as an example
of the ways in which his work can be used to explore theatre throughout time.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2022 12:20

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