Department of Comparative Literature
“Hamlet” at the Himalayan Frontier
Dr. Jason E. H. Lee, Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Hong Kong Baptist University
Dr. Alvin K. Wong, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, HKU
Date: Monday, February 13, 2023
Time: 4:00 pm (Hong Kong Time)
Venue: On Zoom
All are welcome. Registration is required.
This talk situates two cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” across overlapping local, regional and (inter)national imaginaries of Tibet and Kashmir before considering the possibilities of rendering the story and circumstances of Hamlet legible within these borderland contact zones. Set during the 1995 Kashmiri-Indian insurgency, Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Haider” (2014) contests reductive depictions of Kashmiris as terroristic figures by narrating its title character’s search for his disappeared father while, in Hu Xuehua’s “Prince of the Himalayas” (2006), set in a fictional ancient kingdom in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, the Claudius figure is revealed to be Hamlet’s biological father, with the deceased surrogate father operating as a malevolent spirit bent on revenge. With their backdrop of snowy mountains and rugged frontiers, the two films’ implied rejection of revenge creates a troubling politics of appropriation of writing and performing Shakespeare in a region increasingly subject to assimilation policies by the continent’s two dominant powers. These directors’ attempts to ‘mobilise’ Shakespeare’s cultural capital to better mediate the symbolic cultural and geopolitical imaginary of these regions through their evocative natural landscapes are further complicated by the films’ reception by domestic and international viewers, given their placement within a heterogeneous ‘national cinema’ encompassing minority cultures in New Chinese Cinema and Bollywood, where they must negotiate with the spectre of Shakespeare’s contemporaneity as well as his problematic transmission from colonial to postcolonial, translocal and transnational contexts.
Jason Eng Hun Lee is a mixed British and Malaysian Chinese academic, creative writer and performer whose research and practice interests include global anglophone literatures, postcolonial and diasporic Asian writing, and global Shakespeares. His recent articles, reviews, and creative works have been published in “Wasafiri,” “Journal of Postcolonial Writing,” “Textual Practice,” “Moving Worlds” and “World Literature Today.” He is a co-editor of “Where Else: An International Anthology of Hong Kong Poetry” (with Jennifer Wong and Tim Tim Cheng) and his debut poetry collection “Beds in the East” (Eyewear, 2019) was a finalist for the Melita Hume Prize. He is Literary Editor for “Postcolonial Text” and chief organizer for OutLoud HK 隨言香港, Hong Kong’s longest running English-language poetry collective. He holds a PhD from HKU and lectures in English and Comparative Literatures at Hong Kong Baptist University.
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