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Wealth and poverty in Shakespeare and Dickens

Final Report Summary - WEALTHANDPOVERTYKP (Wealth and poverty in Shakespeare and Dickens)

Executive Summary:
The project addresses the conceptualisation of wealth and poverty in sixteenth-century England by focussing on English Poor Laws and on the conceptualisation of wealth and poverty in the work of Shakespeare. The project examines Tudor legislation on beggary and the conceptualisation of poverty and wealth in Timon of Athens and King Lear. Drawing on a philosophical framework derived from the work of Michel Foucault, the first part of the project argues that the Poor Laws could be seen as a rupture iin representation. The second part of the project demonstrates how these works by Shakespeare give body, image and voice to a different system of knowledge from that embodied in the Poor Laws. It argues that Shakespeare's figurations of money and poverty constitute an epistemological break in that system of representation which textures power.
Project Context and Objectives
The scientific contexts for the work are the prevalence of Foucault's ideas about the relation between power and knowledge, which it interrogates through Deleuze's concept of the virtual; historical engagements with the Elizabethan Poor Law; and literary critical engagements with money and poverty in Shakespeare's plays.
The objectives were to add the relation between poverty and force to the familiar idea of the relation between power and knowledge; to interrogate theoretically historical research into the Elizabethan Poor Law and literary research into money and poverty.
Foregrounds:
During the first-year of the project, Dr Pascucci took part in a one-day workshop on 'Poverty' organised by the RHUL Centre for Sustainability. At the end of the second year, she organised a one-day conference on 'Shakespeare and Philosophy' at RHUL, bringing together most of the major UK Shakespeare scholars and providing an audience for the dissemination of Dr Pascucci's research.The book written during the award has now been submitted to a publisher.
Impact:
The 'Poverty' workshop was followed by participation (by Dr Pascucci and myself) with the Centre for Sustainability in a large-scale research-bid involving UK, Italian, Indian and Bangladeshi institutions. (This was, unfortunately, unsuccessful.) The 'Shakespeare and Philosophy' conference brought together major figures in the field and could provide the basis for an edited collection of essays on the topic. The monograph on Shakespeare and poverty is likely to have a significant impact in the three disciplines it brings together: philosophy, history, and Shakespeare criticism. The research into the Victorian Poor Laws uncovered such rich archival material that it was felt that a second research bid would be necessary to do them justice. This project would extend the philosophical and creative work undertaken during the last two years into the Victorian period.