This paper challenges one of the most influential readings of Shakespeare in the last half-century: that of the “ordinary language” philosopher Stanley Cavell. It critiques Cavell’s notions of avoidance, acknowledgment, and recognition through an analysis of the discontinuous, fragmentary character of Edgar (King Lear). On Dover Cliff, Shakespeare brings us to a mode of theatre that works through seemingly negative movements of avoidance and evasion, thereby throwing the parameters of ordinary language philosophy into confusion. Drawing on negative theology and work concerned with the phenomenology of theatre, I make a case for the creative possibilities of avoidance in theatre and in love.
Nicholas Luke is an Assistant Professor in the School of English at HKU. Nick's work focuses on early modern literature, how we receive it, and why it still matters. His first book, Shakespearean Arrivals: The Birth of Character (Cambridge University Press, 2018), argues that contemporary criticism fails to do justice to the ongoing power of Shakespeare’s tragic characters and seeks to re-establish the concept of character on new philosophical and theatrical foundations. Nick’s current research re-examines the vexed question of Shakespeare’s engagement with religion through the theme of resurrection.