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An infinite variety of appropriations in American TV drama

Serial Shakespeare explores the dissemination and reassemblage of Shakespeare’s plays in contemporary media culture, regarding the way this taps into but also transforms his preferred themes, concerns and constellations of characters. The appropriations discussed include isolated citations in Westworld and The Wire, a typology of the first female president modelled on figures of female sovereignty, as well as a discussion of what one might call a specifically Shakespearean dramaturgy in Deadwood and The Americans. By proposing a reciprocal exchange between the early modern plays and contemporary serial TV drama, the book focusses on the transhistoric and transmedial dialogue a revisitation of the Bard entails. The readings consider the Shakespeare text again, from a different perspective, but also address the fact that his text comes back to us again, from the past. The book claims that serial TV drama keeps appropriating Shakespeare to give voice to unfinished cultural business regarding the state of the American nation because both share the sense of writing in and for a period of interim. Given that the Bard continues to write and read America, what the book draws into focus is how both scriptwriters and cultural critics can, by repurposing him, come up with narratives that are appropriate to our times.

Open Access (free)
The cinematic afterlife of an early modern political diva
Elisabeth Bronfen and Barbara Straumann

eponymous film of 1944). 11 When she comes to play Elizabeth again in Henry Koster’s costume epic, she is firmly installed as the older woman who has remained a powerful star in the Hollywood system, as well as a forceful political figure. She embodies the veteran professional woman in the American cultural imaginary. The scene portraying the early modern Queen in relation to mid-twentieth-century cultural

in The British monarchy on screen
Westworld
Elisabeth Bronfen

this, its subsequent development and maturation in a different media and at a different historical moment, but also on its untranslatability. 14 In the interstice between the subsequent refiguration and the original, a breach is opened through which the ghost of Shakespeare, ever on the move, keeps watch over his spectral afterlife and, as such, haunts it; haunts the characters ventriloquising his words and haunts the American cultural imaginary into which this early modern drama has been transplanted. But if, by definition, Shakespeare remains with us in a

in Serial Shakespeare
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Appropriation, dislocation, and crossmapping
Elisabeth Bronfen

equation, as is the case when Hollywood stars play ambitious politicians, celebrity itself is revered. 47 As with Shakespeare’s ambivalent staging of queenship, these female presidents in TV drama do not only articulate a feminist doubt regarding any self-evident relation between political leadership and the demos. The charm each of Hollywood’s stars gives to this role also speaks to the appeal that conspiracy narratives hold for the American cultural imaginary, invested, as it is, in believing that the more powerful rule comes from the political periphery, or works

in Serial Shakespeare