Literature and Culture: Catherine Belsey

A special issue of Textual Practice, dedicated to the work of Catherine Belsey

Literature and Culture: The Work of Catherine Belsey
Edited by Neil Badmington and Jürgen Pieters

About the Issue

For more than a quarter of a century, the work of Catherine Belsey has shaped and reshaped how we read literature and culture. This special issue of Textual Practice – the first of its kind – addresses the difference that Belsey’s work has made.

The collection is not a Festschrift; it is, rather, a series of theoretical, literary, and cultural investigations that take different aspects of Belsey’s work as a starting point. The engagement, moreover, is critical: if the volume works in the wake of Belsey’s writings, it regularly does so with a view to pushing her findings in new directions. Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s contribution, for instance, discusses Belsey and Žižek on Lacan’s concept of the real, establishes their differences, and then proceeds, drawing upon Marx, to move ‘beyond Belsey’. Alan Sinfield, meanwhile, looks back to Critical Practice, Belsey’s first book, and reconsiders the place of Pierre Macherey in Belsey’s radical challenge to traditional accounts of reading. In doing so, and in comparing the first and second editions of Critical Practice, Sinfield draws attention to the turn to ‘undecidability’ in Belsey’s work and questions its place in the practical realm of politics. For Sinfield, undecidability is not wholly satisfactory, and, like Lecercle, he calls for a move beyond the account offered in Belsey’s work.

Other contributions to the volume draw upon Belsey’s writings to discuss, among other things: Shakespeare and death; fairy tales and Roland Barthes; visual culture; psychoanalysis; non-human cultures and the limits of cultural analysis; tragedy and subjectivity; and New Historicism.


Neil Badmington, Catherine Bernard, John Drakakis, Indira Ghose, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Jürgen Pieters, Kris Pint, Alan Sinfield, and Julia Thomas. The collection closes with an afterword by Catherine Belsey.


Editors’ Foreword
Neil Badmington; Jürgen Pieters

Danger! Keep out!: exploring culture with Catherine Belsey (and other animals)
Neil Badmington

When the real matters: interpreting the visual with Catherine Belsey
Catherine Bernard

Revisiting The Subject of Tragedy
John Drakakis

Jesting with Death: Hamlet in the Graveyard
Indira Ghose

An old Bolshevik of theory, or: welcome to the abundance of the Belseyan real
Jean-Jacques Lecercle

‘I was never a new historicist’: Catherine Belsey's ‘history at the level of the signifier’
Jürgen Pieters

Kissing the text: performing the motif of Sleeping Beauty
Kris Pint

Reading Critical Practice and Macherey
Alan Sinfield

Illustrations by Belsey
Julia Thomas

Catherine Belsey

Website: Literature and Culture: The Work of Catherine Belsey, Textual Practice

Also at A Piece of Monologue