Starting a Literature Review

January 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm (Literature Review)

Bill suggested that I do an informal Literature Review, partly to survey for both of us the work being done in the area.  For me, however, its primary purpose  is to ensure that I have put in writing my responses to my reading. I have decided to add it (and, of course, continue to add to it) in this blog. There is a comfort in knowing that my words are backed up in cyber-space, and I am finding the postings categories extremely useful for organising disparate snippets of information.  Unlike my paper folders and my Word folders, I can actually find them after I have filed them here!  going back to my literature review,  I do not yet possess the critical vocabulary or understanding to summarise and expand on the intellectual questions raised by these critical texts.  Unlike their reviewers in literary journals, I do not recognise the methodologies that the writers utilise, nor do I feel confident to enter into a dialogue with them!!!  That will come with re-reading and redrafting. It also reminds me that a first year PhD student is in a very similar place to a first year undergraduate at the beginning of a degree course.

This literature review will focus on the reading relevant to the final appropriation of the Prince of Denmark’s adventures mentioned above: Lin Zhaohua’s 1995 revived and touring production of Hamuleite. This is the standard pinyin (Romanised) transliteration in Mandarin of the title Hamlet.  It has no meaning in Chinese, but has come to be recognised across Chinese culture as the name of the most famous play by the most famous world playwright, Shashibiya, Shakespeare. In fact, Guo Xiaolu’s fictional protagonist in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers notes that even her shoemaking peasant father ‘know Shakespeare big dude, because in our local government evening classes they telling everyones Shakespeare most famous person from Britain’(2007, 26), and Chinese schoolchildren across the nation, without having read Hamlet,  learn ‘yi qian ge ren yan li you yi qian ge hamuleite’ 一千个人眼里有一千个哈姆雷特  (inside one thousand people are one thousand Hamlets).

In order to contextualize Lin’s production of Hamlet and the issues surrounding it, I will begin with an overview of current literature in the field of trans-cultural appropriations, foreign Shakespeares and localizing Shakespeare in Asia.  On the one hand, this is relatively easy, as Shakespeare scholars have only recently shown a mainstream and concerted interest in non- Anglo transformations of his plays, with Anglo meaning primarily British or North American.  On the other hand, the lack of in-depth scholarship on the particular performance I am interested in could perhaps prove limiting, with only one academic, Li Ruru, writing about it at any length.  Nonetheless, there are a range of resources in English which focus on either Chinese adaptations of Shakespeare or on Chinese theatre forms, operatic and spoken, to help with this contextualisation.  These include journal articles in Asian Theatre Journal, TDR, Shakespeare Quarterly etc, a handful of theses and, especially useful for introducing how these performances look and for viewing short performance extracts, several university web resources.   The latter give an introduction to Shakespeare performances beyond his traditional linguistic and cultural boundaries to Western students, once again indicating that this is a growing area of scholarship globally.  I have also recently attended two major Shakespeare Conferences that gave centre stage to intercultural re-visionings of Shakespeare: the University of Nottingham Ningbo’s Crossing Continents Shakespeare Conference (2008) and the BSA Local/Global Shakespeare Conference (2009) hosted by KCL.  The guanxi (or connections) that I established with other academics interested in this area is already proving invaluable…

I have used Chinese name ordering throughout my work: family name followed by given name.

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