Shakespeare and the Arts of the Table
2011 Conference of the Société Française Shakespeare (March 17-19, 2011)
Arts of the table are not that far removed from performing arts. The table is a stage. It has its actors, its backstage, its sets, its props, its rules, its mises en scène, its lighting and musical effects. In English, “boards” can refer both to a table and a stage — both of which can indifferently be designated by “tréteaux” (trestles) in French. The early modern stage abundantly feeds on this spectacular and festive matter. Plays by Shakespeare or by his contemporaries, notably Heywood, Kyd, Marlowe, Lyly, Greene, Peele, Chapman, Marston or Dekker, teem with episodes where food, feeding and eating are staged and where the table appears as a place of creation, recreation and ostentation. From Titus’ bloody serving-up of dishes to the banquet whereby Timon literally makes his guests’ mouths water, through the trompe-l’œil feast conjured up by Ariel, Shakespeare presents cooking and eating rituals in all their musical, theatrical and visual artifice. “Shakespeare and the arts of the table” is an invitation to study early modern food culture, practices and discourses, to address the representation and aesthetics of both the table and the art of cookery, and to explore recipes, objects and utensils that give shape to the raw and the cooked.
“She makes hungry where most she satisfies”: Cleopatra, described as “a morsel for a monarch”, is changed through a gastronomic metaphor into a work of art whose meaning and taste are not exhausted in consumption but which feeds instead a pleasure that is endlessly renewed, generating desire that is consequently never satisfied. Foodstuffs must undergo transformation in order to become royal dainties whose meaning goes beyond mere physical necessity and pure instinct. Arts of the table refer not so much to food that satisfies as to food that leaves you hungry while being a source of sensual pleasures, be it for the hosts or the guests.
A study of Shakespeare and the arts of the table implies an exploration of the rules of hospitality and etiquette as well as of their transgression. The festive, civil table can become a table of torture. One should not only interrogate food stuffs but also table manners as they are taught in the numerous Renaissance treatises on civility and conduct and as they are staged and perverted in the plays. As was shown by Michel Jeanneret, arts of the table have to do with edibles but also with speakables and readables; they reconcile the stomach and the head by summoning the two functions of the mouth: eating and talking. In Shakespeare’s world, the arts of the table inevitably lead to the arts and pleasures of the tongue, to table talk and feasts of words.
Call for Papers
This appetizing theme is bound to provide food for thought and invite proposals which will enable us to draw up a mouth-watering menu.
Please send your proposals (title and 1/2 page abstract) by 30 September 2010 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Institut de Recherche sur la Renaissance, l’âge Classique et les Lumières
UM 5186 du CNRS Université de Montpellier III Paul Valéry