Seminars

  • Founded
    1982
  • Seminar Number
    581

This seminar explores issues of interest to the current Shakespeare scholarship. Principal topics include the relation of play-script to performance, the implications of recent changes in textual study, the relevance of texts to the social and political world in which they were produced, and the impact of contemporary theory on Shakespeare criticism. A Bernard Beckerman Memorial Lecture is presented annually in honor of the seminar’s founder.


Co-Chairs
Professor Caralyn Bialo
caralyn.bialo@mville.edu

Professor Lauren Robertson
lr2859@columbia.edu

Rapporteur
Shanelle Kim
sek2212@columbia.edu


All seminars will continue to meet virtually through February 2022. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

09/10/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
'Compounds Strange': Old and New Ways of Assessing the Relations between Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Plays
Steven Monte, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Abstract

Abstract

This talk, an outgrowth of my book on the organization and ambitions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, draws specific conclusions about when the sonnets were written and why their compositional period was an extended one. Such an inquiry requires thematic and stylistic comparisons to the plays; more broadly, it provides the opportunity for interpreting relations between the sonnets and the plays, and for reflecting on the differences between “humanistic” and “scientific” methods of comparison.

One of my aims is to offer perspective on an aspect of Shakespeare studies that tends to be “left to experts”—the statistical basis on which texts are ascribed to authors and to dates. It is commonplace now to recognize that some of the canonical works of Shakespeare were written by “Shakespeare and company,” but how the conclusions have been drawn remains largely a specialized discussion. I take up these matters, partly because I believe that they can be explained more simply than they have been, but mostly because assessing their significance depends on a better understanding of them. Among other things, I aim to provide an audience-friendly account of the math behind attribution studies and the dating of Shakespeare’s plays and poems.





10/08/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
The Writing Master’s “Rough Hewings”: Early Modern Poetic Labor and the Pedagogy of Revision
Adhaar Desai, Bard College
Abstract

Abstract

This talk studies the career and writings of John Davies of Hereford, a self-consciously lesser-known contemporary of Shakespeare and Jonson who also happened to be a celebrated teacher of formal handwriting. At its heart, the talk juxtaposes Davies’s published guide to “fair writing,” which treats its subject as a perfectible craft, with his poetry, which consistently reflects on the provisional and uncertain nature of poetic work. Because he was both a professional writing teacher and an aspiring poet, Davies’s writings vividly show how affiliating poesy with innate genius or blotless lines obscures the expenditures of time, ink, effort, and attention necessary for poetic composition. As he came to recognize that such expenditures were largely possible only for privileged classes, he also wrote about how his own financial need and professional obligations sometimes forced him to sacrifice art to expediency.

I argue that by foregrounding the importance of idleness to literary endeavor, Davies’s writings challenge us to reflect upon our own pedagogy’s relationship to writerly labor. How might the written work assigned in literature classrooms encourage the genuine practice of revision? How can our classes acknowledge—and attempt to dismantle—structural barriers to inclusion and educational equity? With the help of foundational and recent scholarship from Rhetoric and Composition Studies, especially regarding strategies for Labor-Based Assessment, my talk closes with proposals for how the practice of writing pedagogy in our literature classes might better reflect the practices that produced the texts on our syllabuses.





11/12/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
meeting postponed
,




12/10/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
meeting postponed
,




01/28/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Epicures in Kissing: Asexuality, Psychoanalysis, and Venus and Adonis
Steven Swarbrick, Baruch College, CUNY
Abstract

Abstract

Freud’s readings of Shakespeare are notorious for their universalizing claims about human sexuality. What is less commonly noticed, and what my essay seeks to foreground, is the asexuality that underwrites psychoanalytic theories of sex. From Leo Bersani’s claim, “There is a big truth about sex: most people don’t like it,” to Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman’s coauthored book, Sex, or the Unbearable, psychoanalysis affirms Julie Sondra Decker’s account of sexuality in The Invisible Orientation, where Decker describes sex as “at best tolerable, at worst uncomfortable.” Following Decker, the field of asexuality studies urges scholars to question the monopoly that sex has on our existing tools of research and to recognize sexuality as a compulsory system shaping bodies, pleasures, and cultural hermeneutics. Focusing on Venus and Adonis, I show that Shakespeare’s poem is replete with asexual encounters, including objectless kisses and an unromantic partner who, at the end of the poem, reproduces himself asexually as a plant. In other words, it is not Adonis alone who spurns sexual romance; Venus’ insatiable kissing is a textbook example of Freud’s point about the paradoxical asexuality of sex: when it comes to the pleasures of kissing, Freud says, “‘It’s a pity I can’t kiss myself.’” This essay invites us to read asexuality not as a particular orientation. Instead, it asks how asexuality, psychoanalysis, and Shakespeare disorient our readings of sex.





02/11/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM

Louise Geddes, Adelphi University




03/11/2022 Location TBD
7:00 PM

Jane Degenhardt, University of Massachusetts Amherst




04/15/2022 Location TBD
7:00 PM

Bernadette Myers, Columbia University




04/29/2022 Location TBD
7:00 PM

Melissa Sanchez, University of Pennsylvania




Notes: Bernard Beckerman Memorial Lecture
05/12/2022 Location TBD
7:00 PM

David Sterling Brown, University of Arizona