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Rosalind and Śakuntalā among the Ascetics: Reading Gender and Female Sexual Agency in a Bengali Adaptation of As You Like It

Abstract

My article examines how the staging of gender and sexuality in Shakespeare’s play As You Like It is negotiated in a Bengali adaptation, Ananga-Rangini (1897) by the little-known playwright Annadaprasad Basu. The Bengali adaptation does not assume the boy actor’s embodied performance as essential to its construction of the Rosalindequivalent, and thereby it misses several of the accents on gender and sexuality that characterize Shakespeare’s play. The Bengali adaptation, while accommodating much of Rosalind’s flamboyance, is more insistent upon the heteronormative closure and reconfigures the Rosalind-character as an acquiescent lover/wife. Further, Ananga-Rangini incorporates resonances of the classical Sanskrit play Abhijñānaśākuntalam by Kālidāsa, thus suggesting a thematic interaction between the two texts and giving a concrete shape to the comparison between Shakespeare and Kālidāsa that formed a favourite topic of literary debate in colonial Bengal. The article takes into account how the Bengali adaptation of As You Like It may be influenced by the gender politics informing Abhijñānaśākuntalam and by the reception of this Sanskrit play in colonial Bengal.

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Shakespeare in Digital Games and Virtual Worlds

Abstract

Shakespeare’s plays have long flirted with using various artistic and medial forms other than theatre, such as cinema, music, visual arts, television, comics, animation and, lately, digital games and virtual worlds. Especially in the 20th and 21st century, a fascination with Shakespeare both as a historical and theatrical figure and as a playwright has become evident in screen based media (cinema, television and video), ranging from “faithful,” almost documented performances of his plays to free style adaptations or vague film references. Digital games and virtual worlds carry on this tradition of the transmedial journey of Shakespeare’s plays to screen based media but top it up with new forms of interaction and performativity. For the first time in the history of mankind everyone can enjoy firsthand from his armchair and for free the experience of taking part in a play by the Bard by entering a virtual world as if it was a stage and by assuming roles through avatars.

The article attempts first to introduce the reader to the deeper needs that gave rise to animation, a fundamental aspect of digital gaming and virtual worlds. It then tries to illuminate the various facets of digital performance and gaming, especially in relation to Shakespeare-themed and inspired digital games and virtual worlds, by putting forward some axes of classification. Finally, it both suggests some ideas that may be of use in rendering the Shakespeare gaming experience more “complete” and “theatrical” and ends by acknowledging the immense potential for the exploration of theatricality and performativity in digital games and virtual worlds.

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Shakespeare in Hawai‘i: Puritans, Missionaries, and Language Trouble in James Grant Benton’s Twelf Nite O Wateva!, a Hawaiian Pidgin Translation of Twelfth Night

Abstract

In 1974, the Honolulu-based director James Grant Benton wrote and staged Twelf Nite O Wateva!, a Hawaiian pidgin translation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In Benton’s translation, Malolio (Malvolio) strives to overcome his reliance on pidgin English in his efforts to ascend the Islands’ class hierarchy. In doing so, Malolio alters his native pidgin in order to sound more haole (white). Using historical models of Protestant identity and Shakespeare’s original text, Benton explores the relationship between pidgin language and social privilege in contemporary Hawai‘i. In the first part of this essay, I argue that Benton characterizes Malolio’s social aspirations against two historical moments of religious conflict and struggle: post-Reformation England and post-contact Hawai‘i. In particular, I show that Benton aligns historical caricatures of early modern puritans with cultural views of Protestant missionaries from New England who arrived in Hawai‘i beginning in the 1820s. In the essay’s second part, I demonstrate that Benton crafts Malolio’s pretentious pidgin by modeling it on Shakespeare’s own language. During his most ostentatious outbursts, Malolio’s lines consist of phrases extracted nearly verbatim from Shakespeare’s original play. In Twelf Nite, Shakespeare’s language becomes a model for speech that is inauthentic, affected, and above all, haole.

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Theatre Reviews
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Translation as Rewriting: Cultural Theoretical Appraisal of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the Ewe language of West Africa

Abstract

The cultural turn in translation theory brought attention to the idea that translation is not a purely linguistic phenomenon but one that is also constrained by culture. The cultural turn considers translation as a rewriting of an original text. In this paper, I attempt to find reflections of the cultural turn in a translation into an African language. As such, the paper reads William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the Ewe language of West Africa, Shakespeare ʄe Makbet, as rewriting. Walter Blege is the translator and the Bureau of Ghana Languages is the publisher of the target text meant for Ewe language audience in Ghana. The target text is for learning and acquiring the Ewe language especially in the area of developing reading comprehension skills. Following Andre Lefevere and Jeremy Munday, this paper suggests that Shakespeare ʄe Makbet is a rewritten text as it follows some cultural constraints in its translation. The study provides insight into the motivations for some of the translator/rewriter’s choices. Given the less attention paid to the Ewe language and many other African languages, the paper proposes translation as a socio-psychological tool for revitalizing interest in the learning and acquisition of African and other lesser-known languages.

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The Travelogue as a Mirror of Thought

Abstract

This paper discusses Dutch historical travelogues as a source for linguistic research. On the one hand one can find descriptions of exotic languages or undocumented remote dialects in travel journals, on the other hand one may come across philosophical and theoretical ideas about language in the utopian reports of imaginary voyages.

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What bloody film is this? Macbeth for our time

Abstract

When Roman Polanski’s Macbeth hit the screens in 1971, its bloody imagery, pessimism, violence and nudity were often perceived as excessive or at least highly controversial. While the film was initially analysed mostly in relation to Polanski’s personal life, his past as a WWII child survivor and the husband of the murdered pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, in retrospect its bleak imagery speaks not only for his unique personal experience but also serves as a powerful comment on the American malaise, fears and paranoia that were triggered, amongst other things, by the brutal act of the Manson Family. We had to wait forty four years for another mainstream adaptation of the play and it is tempting not only to compare Kurzel’s Macbeth to its predecessor in terms of how more accepting we have become of graphic depictions of violence on screen but also to ask a more fundamental question: if in future years we were to historicise the new version, what would it tell us about the present moment? The paper proposes that despite its medieval setting and Scottish scenery, the film’s visual code seems to transgress any specific time or place. Imbued in mist, its location becomes more fluid and evocative of any barren and sterile landscape that we have come to associate with war. Seen against a larger backdrop of the current political climate with its growing nationalism and radicalism spanning from the Middle East, through Europe to the US, Kurzel’s Macbeth with its numerous bold textual interventions and powerful mise-en-scène offers a valid response to the current political crisis. His ultra brutal imagery and the portrayal of children echo Polanski’s final assertion of perpetuating violence, only this time, tragically and more pessimistically, with children as not only the victims of war but also its active players.

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