Shakespeare in French Theory: King of Shadows

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At a time when the relevance of literary theory itself is frequently being questioned, Richard Wilson makes a compelling case for French Theory in Shakespeare Studies. Written in two parts, the first half looks at how French theorists such as Bourdieu, Cixous, Deleuze, Derrida and Foucault were themselves shaped by reading Shakespeare; while the second part applies their theories to the plays, highlighting the importance of both for current debates about borders, terrorism, toleration and a multi-cultural Europe. Contrasting French and Anglo-Saxon attitudes, Wilson shows how in France, Shakespeare has been seen not as a man for the monarchy, but a man of the mob. French Theory thus helps us understand why Shakepeare's plays swing between violence and hope. Highlighting the recent religious turn in theory, Wilson encourages a reading of plays like Hamlet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelth Night as models for a future peace. Examining both the violent history and promising future of the plays, Shakespeare in French Theory is a timely reminder of the relevance of Shakespeare and the lasting value of French thinking for the democracy to come.