Fought on every continent except Antarctica, the Second World War offers a unique, temporally limited
but geographically inclusive period in which to analyse and probe the role and significance of the theatre
in times of extreme social duress. As the most frequently performed and translated playwright in the
world, Shakespeare is arguably one of the most useful touchstones for examining a range of issues and
questions brought to the fore during wartime which this international conference -- coinciding with the
70th anniversary of the declaration of war --- aims to address:
What can the classics and, more broadly, theatre offer people suffering
under the horrific conditions of war? How does culture (both as an
anthropological and as an aesthetic concept) change in wartime? Are
some aesthetic genres and modes more conducive than others in such a
period? How effective is the imposition from “above” of aesthetic
criteria or of particular works? How do ordinarily benign artistic
productions suddenly become usable, even necessary, as political
How are claims about the universality of authors revised
or revisited in wartime when special pressures and demands are placed
on literary and dramatic work? How are issues of character and poetic language dealt with in circumstances which require collective,
not individualistic, thought? What kind of relationship develops
between “world classics” and indigenous canons of theatre and
literature in wartime?
How do issues of gender, class, or political
formation play into these debates? Post-colonialism? Translation?
Adaptation? How do terms like “high” and “low” art function in
wartime? In periods of post-war reconstruction? Where does the issue
of globalization fit? Do answers to any of these questions about the
Second World War still hold true today?
To date, the role of the theatre during the Second World War has neither been carefully documented nor
subjected to a thorough analysis, despite the fact that from the very beginning of the war live theatrical
performance was identified as contributing in a central way to the war effort. Shakespeare’s stock was
low in 1939; yet, by war’s end, Shakespeare became a dominant cultural force that both ignited an
explosion--still unabated--of scholarship, professional organizations, Shakespeare festivals, and popular
cultural uses, and that marked a major shift in cultural practices.
The University of Ottawa, Canada’s oldest bilingual university, is located in the heart of the national
Capital, within walking distance of historic Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal (a World Heritage Site),
the National Gallery of Art, and the busy Byward market, and within a few minutes’ drive of the
beautiful wooded hills of Gatineau, Quebec.
Details about the city may be found at
www.ottawa.com and www.ottawatourism.ca. For more about the University, please visit www.uottawa.ca.
THE ORGANIZING COMMITTEE
The Organizing Committee has considered papers from scholars of all relevant disciplines – such as Theatre,
English, History, Language and Literature Programs, Cultural Studies, Communication, Sociology and
Anthropology, Political Science, Gender and Women’s Studies, Philosophy, Psychology – as well as
from theatre practitioners, and especially encourages papers that focus on theatre and Shakespeare in the
Second World War while approaching this topic in a comparative and interdisciplinary way.
The Organizing Committee is:
Irene (Irena) R. Makaryk, Chair of the Organizing Committee, Department of English, Vice-Dean,
Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Yana Meerzon, Département de théâtre/Department of Theatre
Jeff Keshen, Département d’histoire/Department of History
Annie Brisset, École de traduction et d’interprétation/Department of Translation and Interpretation
Marissa McHugh, graduate student, Department of English
The Organizing Committee gratefully acknowledges contributions from our sponsors.
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