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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 propaganda?

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 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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