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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.

Professor Caralyn Bialo

Professor Lauren Robertson

Shanelle Kim

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through Fall 2021. 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


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


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

Steven Swarbrick, Baruch College, CUNY

12/10/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM

Melissa Sanchez, University of Pennsylvania

Notes: Bernard Beckerman Memorial Lecture
02/11/2022 Location TBD
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

05/12/2022 Location TBD
7:00 PM

David Sterling Brown, University of Arizona