This two-day conference was a great success. Speakers ranged from early career (including graduate student researchers) to established academics, from a range of disciplines with a philosophical interest in Shakespeare. There was a mix of papers which were invited and papers selected from a call for submissions. There were 35 attendees (including 11 speakers). Speakers came from England, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, Israel and USA.
The main aim of the conference was to explore the extent to which philosophical analysis can help to illuminate Shakespeare’s work and our engagement with it. It was hoped that this would help to establish the importance of philosophy in understanding Shakespeare, and the importance of Shakespeare to issues in philosophy. We were delighted with how well this was achieved through the final programme and the surrounding discussion at the conference. The breadth and depth of the speakers’ contributions illustrated how fruitful a philosophical approach to Shakespeare can be and indicated its potential as a rich source for future philosophical work. This served to meet the secondary aim of the conference of helping in the preparation of an edited collection of work on Shakespeare and Philosophy (which is to be published by Routledge).

Each paper was given a one-hour slot for presentation and discussion. The papers presented at the conference were: Gregory Currie (University of York) on ‘Macbeth to Throne of Blood’; Katie Brennan (Temple University) on ‘Tragic Knowledge: Reading Shakespeare Through Nietzsche’; Miranda Anderson (University of Edinburgh) on ‘Extending the Self in Shakespeare’; Sophie Battell (Cardiff University) on ‘Shakespeare, Derrida and Cosmopolitanism’; Maximilian de Gaynesford (University of Reading) on ‘Attuning Philosophy and Poetry: Speech Acts and the Sonnets’; Christopher Norris (Cardiff University) on ‘Ripeness Is All: Wittgenstein and Shakespeare’; Tzachi Zamir (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) on ‘Literary Achievement and Moral Growth’; Craig Bourne (University of Hertfordshire) & Emily Caddick Bourne (University of Cambridge & Birkbeck, University of London) on ‘Macbeth’s Prospects’; Adele-France Jourdan (K.U. Leuven) on ‘Grotesque Laughter: Coping with Violence in Titus Andronicus’, and Derek Matravers (Open University) on ‘The History Plays: Fact or Fiction?’ As can be seen from this list, the topics covered spanned areas including aesthetics and the nature of narrative, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy, the nature of emotion, and the philosophy of language, as well as considering Shakespeare’s relationship with the work of particular philosophers. All of the papers were followed by engaged and lively discussion, something which continued through the coffee and lunch breaks. Providing lunch for all participants (rather than for speakers only) was particularly helpful in allowing conversations to develop beyond the initial discussion in Q&A, and in facilitating connections between researchers in relevant areas.

As well as each paper making interesting and original contributions, it was remarked that the atmosphere created was intimate and friendly, thoroughly enjoyable, and worth repeating.

Dates: 12-13 September 2014
Venue: University of Hertfordshire
Organisers: Craig Bourne & Emily Caddick Bourne