Comparative Literature

Patricia Novillo-Corvalán on Borges and Shakespeare

7 March 2018

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Dr Patricia Novillo-Corvalán, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature, will be giving a talk entitled 'Borges's Shakespeare' at the Rose Theatre Kingston, Kingston-upon-Thames, on Saturday 10 March 2018, as part of a day long event dedicated to the reception of the playwright, entitled 'Infinite Jest: Shakespearean Afterlives'.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, and translator. With his usual irreverence and customary cheek, Borges grappled with Shakespeare's ubiquitous cultural influence by writing a series of essays and brief parables, including 'Everything and Nothing' (1960), 'A Page on Shakespeare' (1964), and 'Shakespeare's Memory' (1983), whose titles seem to imply that Shakespeare's 'greatness' can be negotiated through an exercise in 'lessness' and that the colossal magnitude of his works can be paradoxically summed up in a single page, thus expounding the aesthetics of brevity he had previously articulated in the foreword to The Garden of Forkings Paths (1941).

Patricia’s talk seeks to explore the major topoi and philosophical preoccupations that characterised Borges's lifelong fixation with the Bard, namely the negation of personal identity by conceiving Shakespeare as a ghost in life; a spectral, elusive figure whose 'nothingness', by extension, paradoxically implies 'everything' – following the pantheistic system proposed by the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. On a metaphorical level, moreover, Shakespeare functions as a haunting cultural construct whose omnipresent shadow has exerted a pervasive influence across the centuries, a legacy that Borges seeks to negotiate from his irreverent standpoint as an Argentine writer. Therefore, Patricia will show that the canonical ghost of Shakespeare emerges as an intricate interweaving of critical sources and philosophical doctrines which, rather than solving 'The enigma de Shakespeare' (to borrow the title of a guest lecture Borges delivered in Buenos Aires in 1964), instead, plunge the reader into further uncertainty, inevitably eliciting more gaps and a sense of eeriness and mystery.

The event is free to attend although booking is required. For further details, please see the event page here:

Comparative Literature, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 827159 or email the department

Last Updated: 23/01/2014