Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Lecture | Bradd Shore | Look Again: Anamorphic Projection and Social Theory in Shakespeare

Episode Summary

Lecture | Bradd Shore | Look Again: Anamorphic Projection and Social Theory in Shakespeare

Episode Notes

Few would contest the claim that Shakespeare was a great poet and playwright. Less indisputable, perhaps, is the notion that he was also a great social theorist. By this, I'm not referring to theory in the weak sense of occasional philosophically nuanced comments by characters, or speeches with philosophical overtones. I mean that Shakespeare was a social theorist in the strong sense that, in addition to being powerful stories, his plays often are extended reflections on many of the classic issues of social thought. If I'm right about this, it raises an important question about literary technique and voice. Normally the analytical voice of the theorist is very different and in some sense in tension with the narrative voice of the dramatist or novelist. Reconciling the requirements of effective theoretical analysis and affecting dramatic narrative is a major challenge. This talk, adapted from my upcoming book on Shakespeare and social theory, deals with one important way in which Shakespeare accomplished this literary pas de deux by adapting anamorphic projection, a visual technique perfected by Renaissance painters, to literary narrative. Anamorphosis developed in relation to the Renaissance science of optics and its far-reaching effects on perspective. While anamorphic projection has been widely appreciated in the history of painting, its use as a holographic literary technique is less well-known, and its use by Shakespeare as a way of expanding the semantic range of his plays is virtually unappreciated. [February 5, 2015]