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Margherita Pascucci – ‘Thou art the Thing itself’ Shakespeare, Poverty and Us.

Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC)

Event Date 10 March 2010 17:00 – 18:30

Margherita Pascucci (RHUL): ‘Thou art the thing itself’ Shakespeare, poverty, and us.

The figure of the beggar and the poor man in Tudor-Stuart England was considered a threat to the social order. The answer produced by the government, summarised in the old Poor Laws, was to project on him a replication of the social structures which defined, excluded and at the same time aimed at containing him. The poor, as instanced by the beggar’s body, became a central site of semiotic conflict and the nature of representation itself came under interrogation (Carroll).
Within Michel Foucault’s argument, for which the system of knowledge in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was marked by the insurgence of a theory of representation following the Renaissance paradigm, which was for Foucault defined by similitude, in this contribution I argue that the literary works of this period are rather characterized by a rupture of representation. This rupture is fully expressed in Shakespeare’s work. Together with a fierce critique of the concept of money, as Marx noted, Shakespeare stages this rupture of representation as a rupture of meaning, at once epistemological, social and economical.
His work still challenges us today with the perspective of reading poverty as that ontological force which voices the epistemological breaking of all power structure.

Part of our Philosophy and the Humanities strand.

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