Study Day presented by the UQ Node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.
 a poem come true, Tom de Freston, 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Possibilities of Criticism
Professor Simon Palfrey (Oxford University)


Friday, 22 September 2017
10:00am-4:30pm, with coffee from 9:30am. Fully catered.

Boardroom, The University of Queensland Art Museum
University Drive, St Lucia

Spaces are limited. RSVP by Monday 18 September to

This study day will explore some of the possibilities of creative literary criticism—the reasons why more imaginative, formally-innovative methods might be necessary or true; the challenges this presents to critical structures and languages; its potential opportunities and pitfalls. I will introduce samples of my own recent work, in various idioms, some of it in uncertain progress, as a prompt to get us thinking and talking. The class will be split roughly into two parts. The first half will draw upon two of my books on Shakespeare: Poor Tom: living King Lear (University of Chicago Press, 2014) and Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds (Cambridge University Press, 2014). We will think about how close attention to the forms of plays might modify or even model critical approaches, in particular our assumptions about history and temporality. This in turn entails using different philosophical approaches to try to get at the unique metaphysics and experience of playlife: in particular Leibniz and Kierkegaard. The second half will engage with recent creative experiments: the novel Macbeth, Macbeth (written with Ewan Fernie; Bloomsbury, 2016); and Demons Land: a poem come true, a multi-media project that posits Spenser’s Faerie Queene as the seminal text of unfinished history, both post-colonial and personal: what if history, society, a life, is modelled on a poem?

Simon Palfrey grew up in Hobart before going to ANU and Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He is a founding editor of the Bloomsbury series Shakespeare Now! and Beyond Criticism. His books include Shakespeare in Parts (Oxford University Press, 2007, with Tiffany Stern); Doing Shakespeare (Arden, 2004); Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds (Cambridge University Press, 2014); and Poor Tom: Living King Lear (Chicago University Press, 2014). His most recent publication is the novel Macbeth, Macbeth (Bloomsbury, 2016, with Ewan Fernie). He is currently Professor of English Literature at Oxford University.

A working knowledge of MacbethKing Lear and The Winter’s Tale will be assumed. Participants should also read at least a bit of The Faerie Queene. Suggested episodes: Book 1, Canto 1; Book 3, Cantos 6 and 12.

In addition, participants should be familiar with the following works by Simon Palfrey. Copies will be provided ahead of time:

‘History Man’ and ‘Humanist v. Post-humanist: a dialogue’, in Poor Tom: living King Lear (University of Chicago Press, 2012)
‘Life at the end of the line: Macbeth’, in Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
‘Formactions’, in Early Modern Theatricality, ed. Henry Turner (Oxford University Press, 2014)
‘Preface’; opening sections ‘light thickens’ and ‘told by an idiot’ (pp.1-11); ‘gashes cry’ (pp.249-55) in Macbeth, Macbeth (with Ewan Fernie; Bloomsbury, 2016)
Work in Progress, a draft from ‘The Seminary’ (word document)
The film Demons land (via Vimeo link)

Image: Painting from Demons land: a poem come true, Tom de Freston, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.