Year in Review
Together, our speakers engaged a strong set of scholarly concerns and themes: the centrality of print, reception, and the public sphere in our conceptions of early modern literature. Douglas Bruster (UT Austin) opened the series with a talk on “Shakespeare’s Brand,” tracing printers’ decorative ornaments from French Calvinist texts through to Shakespeare’s playbooks and arguing for scholarly attention to these visual markers. In “Hamlet Q1 and its Audience,” Tiffany Stern (Oxford) built the case that the brevity and inconsistencies of the 1603 Hamlet result from its origins as notes taken in the audience. Coppélia Kahn (Brown) provided a wise and generous personal retrospective of the past 35 years of Shakespeare criticism in her “Feminist Criticism, Queer Theory, and Shakespeare in the 21st Century,” focusing on the relationship between gender criticism and queer theory. Rebecca Lemon (USC) drew the series to a perfect close with “Incapacitated Will,” an examination of the role of agency in understandings of drunkenness. Shakespeare’s plays, Lemon demonstrated, depict sympathetic drunks with little personal agency, thereby challenging early modern law and anticipating modern legal views of drunkenness. In a talk co-sponsored with the British History Seminar, Jenny Andersen (CSU San Bernardino) departed from the Shakespeare-centric focus of the other talks in her “Red Herrings in Nashe Criticism” to present Thomas Nashe as a savvy negotiator of his patrons and the print marketplace. One indicator of the prominence and synergy of the speakers was the NY Times front-page feature article (August 12, 2013) on Doug Bruster’s work with a scholarly assessment by Tiffany Stern.