This is the third volume of the online journal Selected Papers of the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference. The conference itself was held on 22-24 October 2009 on the campus of Ohio University and its main theme was “Shakespeare on Screen: 1899-2009.” Our meeting was generously supported by the Ohio University College of Arts and Sciences, the Dean of the Ohio University Graduate School, and the University’s Vice President for Research. Forty-seven
papers and two plenary addresses were delivered during the three-day conference, from which the journal’s editorial board chose four outstanding essays to publish.
The first essay in this volume, by James Newlin, reveals how complicated and multilayered Influences on — and sources of — a work of art can be. Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho has generally been seen as indebted to Shakespeare’s Henriad and Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight, but Newlin reveals a list of other influences that include British punk culture and Madonna, to name but a few. By the end of Newlin’s essay, Van Sant’s film is revealed as “the interplay of the fantastic, the pastoral, and the social.” As a result, the genre that best fits Van Sant’s movie is not “gritty realism,” as some have argued, but “romance” – a postmodern romance of the American Midwest.
Next comes Nick Roth’s close look at three films of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Noble’s, Hoffman’s, and Moshinky’s) that grapple with the problem of how to present Hippolyta to a modern audience. Making her more or less “progressive” in modern feminist terms, Roth finds, seems to lead to “ideological trade-offs that jettison the profound cultural anxieties embedded in the figure of the Queen of the Amazons.” He theorizes that, whatever the initial choices made by directors, Hippolyta’s function and meaning seem “foreclosed by the
structure of the play” and tend toward the “hetero-normative.”
The final two essays in this volume focus on Hamlet and Hamlet, but in very different ways. James Lewin offers a Presentist reading of Hamlet that depends on recent scholarship’s understanding of the main character. Instead of a weak-willed anti-hero who cannot act, Hamlet is best seen as a “cunning trickster” and a “hard-boiled investigator” (though with deep interiority) who could teach us how to face the uncertain world opened up by 9/11 while, at the same time, inviting us to recognize our own responsibility and culpability for the uncertain situation we face. In the final essay in this volume, Rachel Zlatkin invites us to reconsider Olivier’s 1948 film production of Hamlet, especially in view of Olivier’s own admission that his film’s focus is not so much the play as the character of Hamlet himself. Zlatkin argues that Olivier’s film is better understood from the theoretical perspective of D.W. Winnicott’s “objectrelations theory,” despite Olivier’s announced interest in an Oedipal Hamlet. Zlatkin demonstrates that many of the major objects and symbols in the play function according to Winnicott’s theory, and she suggests that Olivier’s Hamlet never really makes the transition to a mature psyche that understands others as fundamentally different from the self.
Finally, I want to gratefully acknowledge Sandee Lloyd’s contributions as technical editor of this collection and for providing the cover for this volume. Thanks also to Professors Gabriel Rieger (Concord University) and Curtis Breight (University of Pittsburgh) for acting as referees for Volume 3.