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Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Touch: Romeo and Juliet

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia. Part of the CHE Virtual Fellows Seminar Series


Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Romeo and Juliet (between 1869 and 1870), Delaware Art Museum, Wikimedia Commons

Date: Tuesday 14 June 2022
Time: 11:00am AWST / 1:00pm AEST
Venue: Online via Zoom. Please email emotions@uwa.edu.au for connection details. 
Enquiries: emotions@uwa.edu.au

In this paper, I will explore Shakespeare’s phenomenology of touch with a focus on Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo says, ‘Let lips do what hands do’, he is bringing together physical, social, and existential elements of touch in one action—as a pilgrim might make his way to a shrine, embrace a saint or holy relic and return with a palm as a memento. Shakespeare presents a phenomenology of touch in so far as he allows the phenomenon to show itself from itself—between one character and another in the fiction, and between the
performer and audience in the material space of the theatre. Physical touch fades and passes but a deeper and authentic sense of touch can achieve transcendence beyond time and space. From a phenomenological perspective touch is a ‘bringing near to proximity’ of that which is distant. Proximity is not primarily spatial but part of “Being-in-the-world”. Touching contains a temporal element in so far as it fuses the past, present, and future together in experience. In this tragedy, anticipation of touch is the trajectory of desire, the immersion into touch is the sea of pleasure, and the mourning of its loss is at the heart of grief. 


Brid Phillips (Edith Cowan University)


Daniel Johnston (PhD in Performance Studies [Sydney] and MA [Cantab] in Philosophy [Cambridge]) is an Honorary Associate at The University of Sydney. Previously, he was a lecturer and researcher at Sheffield Hallam University, NIDA, Macquarie, and The University of Notre Dame.