Versions of The Winter's Tale: Theater, Literature, Film, and Philosophy

Charles Robert Leslie, Florizel and Perdita (1837)

Shakespeare's astonishingly experimental romance The Winter's Tale has sponsored a fascinating series of literary, philosophical, and cinematic reflections. This seminar examines the afterlives of The Winter's Tale as "the book of second chances." We will examine together the winter's tales of Jane Austen (Persuasion), George Eliot (Daniel Deronda), Eric Rohmer (Contes d'Hiver), Isak Dinesen (Winter's Tales), Jill Paton Walsh (A Desert in Bohemia), Elizabeth Taylor (A Game of Hide and Seek), and Pedro Almodóvar (Volver and Talk to Her).

None of these works are adaptations of Shakespeare; rather they are meditations on the themes of reconciliation, romance, time, wonder, childhood and change, marriage, and the power and possibilities of art that his play sponsors or initiates. What narrative possibilities are engendered by The Winter's Tale? How do such possibilities morph across the philosophical forms of novel and film? And what thoughts do such works sponsor for thinking about the relation between ethics and the arts?

Sarah Beckwith
Sarah Beckwith
Professor, Theater Studies, Duke University
Sarah Beckwith works on late medieval religious writing, medieval and early modern drama, and ordinary language philosophy. Her books include: Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness (Cornell University Press, 2011); Premodern Shakespeare, edited with James Simpson, a special issue of The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Duke University Press, 2010); and Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in York's Play of Corpus Christi (University of Chicago Press, 2001; paperback, 2003). She is currently working on a book about Shakespearean tragedy and about philosophy's love affair with the genre of tragedy.

Image: Charles Robert Leslie, Florizel and Perdita (1837). Steel-plate engraving by Lumb Stocks, illustration in Charles Knight's two-volume Imperial Edition of The Works of Shakespeare (London: Virtue and Company, 1873-76). Shakespeare Illustrated, Emory University.

National Humanities Center
7 Alexander Drive, P.O. Box 12256
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
Phone: (919) 549-0661   Fax: (919) 990-8535
Copyright © National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 2012