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At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean

Bloomsbury Publishing

We need a poetic history of the ocean, and Shakespeare can help us find one. There's more real salt in the plays than we might expect. Shakespeare's dramatic ocean spans the God-sea of the ancient world and the immense blue vistas that early modern mariners navigated. Throughout his career, from the opening shipwrecks of The Comedy of Errors through The Tempest, Shakespeare's plays figure the ocean as shocking physical reality and mind-twisting symbol of change and instability. To fathom Shakespeare's ocean - to go down to its bottom - this book's chapters focus on different things that humans do with and in and near the sea: fathoming, keeping watch, swimming, beachcombing, fishing, and drowning.

Mentz also sets Shakespeare's sea-poetry against modern literary sea-scapes, including the vast Pacific of Moby-Dick, the rocky coast of Charles Olson's Maximus Poems, and the lyrical waters of the postcolonial Caribbean. Uncovering the depths of Shakespeare's maritime world, this book draws out the centrality of the sea in our literary culture.

Godless Shakespeare

Bloomsbury Publishing

Godless Shakespeare is the first book to discuss Shakespeare's plays from an atheist perspective.   Although it is clear that Shakespeare engaged with and deployed much of his culture's broadly religious interests - his language is shot through with biblical quotations, priestly sermonizing and Christian imagery - Mallin argues that there is a profound absence of or hostility to God in his plays.

Following Dante's three part structure for The Divine Comedy - Hell represents expressions of religious faith in Shakespeare's plays, Purgatory sets out more sceptical positions, and Heaven shows articulations of godlessness - Mallin traces a spiritual ascent from the unthinkingly devout to the atheistically spiritual. This polemical, vigorous account focuses on the moral and spiritual dilemmas of major characters, developing the often subtle transitions between belief, scepticism and atheism. Finally, Godless Shakespeare argues for the liberating potential of unbelief.

"Always intriguing, usually provocative and occasionally infuriating, Godless Shakespeare is a brilliant meditation on Shakespeare's ways with his characters and the systems of moral values in which we place them. Mallin's Shakespeare is never constricted by conventional parameters of religion and belief but instead is a thoroughly original creator, demanding our engaged moral response to his creations. In Mallin's excitingly heterodox cosmology, Cleopatra and Aaron, Pericles and Isabella find themselves with unexpected companions in the new heaven, hell and purgatory in which Mallin arranges them. Thinking about Shakespeare and religion has never seemed such fun." - Professor Peter Holland, Notre Dame University, USA

"If Nietzsche were put in charge of Dente's afterlife, and then asked to find appropriate places for Shakespeare's characters, the result would be something like this. Eric Mallin's perverse and excoriating anti-metaphysic shows just how many settled assumptions about Shakespeare are overturned when religion in his plays is taken seriously. Audacious and innovative, Mallin conflates renaissance scepticism and modern atheism, scattering light and darkness equally as he sears Christianity with a torch lit from the Christian flame." - Professor Graham Holderness, University of Hertfordshire, UK

"At last! An iconoclastic Shakespeare with a mind and spirit unconstrained by orthodox religion. Eric Mallin guides us through the undiscovered country where the bard's spirituality survives in and as unbelief. Godless Shakespeare is beautifully written, well-conceived, and irresistibly funny. I felt as though I were encountering the plays for the first time." - Professor David Riggs, author of The World of Christopher Marlowe

"Defying recent Catholic and Protestant claims to Shakespeare's endorsement, and challenging Stephen Greenblatt's claim that Renaissance atheism was merely a defensive shadow cast by Christianity, Mallin's wide-ranging book suggests that Shakespeare recognized Christianity as a defense against the burdens of unbelief, which has important values of its own. With its taxonomy of characters into a non-religious ethical hierarchy, Godless Shakespeare jauntily defies the conventional wisdom about a writer who himself typically defied such wisdom." - Professor Robert Watson, UCLA, USA

-Mention. Daily Telegraph/ April 8, 2007

"This is a persuasive and well-argued work, based on evidence and examples from key texts in the Shakespearean oeuvre.  It succeeds very well in fulfilling the aim of the general editors of the series in reaching out to the general reader, without compromising its scholarly rigor." -Abdulla Al-Dabbagh, The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 39, Winter 2008

"The book is both fun and funny; it is often exciting and irreverent. Like Bruster's and Davis's books in the same series, it is able to stimulate thinking with a fairly light...touch. Hearing South Park's Eric Cartman weigh in on the Eucharist in a mostly relevant way was extremely pleasurable." - Peter G. Platt, Studies in English Literature, Spring 2008

"Mallin offers readings of selected plays, organized, clumsily, by the tripartite structure of Dante's Comedy, and occasionally intersperses his interpretations with cynical reflections on contemporary Christianity...Mallin accomplishes less than his titles promises. Godless Shakespeare reveals not a Godless Shakespeare, but a Godless Mallin...Mallin's analysis is also anachronistic. He projects the late modern struggle of fundamentalisms back into the 16th century. " - Peter J. Leithart, Christianity Today, September/October 2008

"This entire 'mini-graph,' in fact, is a cheerful map of misreading by a writer resolutely determined to force Shakespeare to share his own atheist views...There is a perfectly sound book to be written about Shakespeare's changing religious views, from his early Creationism and endorsement of the Great Chain of Being to his reluctantly evolving, horrified sense (stimulated by such conscienceless villains as Iago and Edmund) that there may be nothing transcendent in the universe beyond Nature. But Godless Shakespeare is not that book. In a vain effort to enlist Shakespeare into the legions of contemporary atheists, not to mention his compulsion to say something, anything original about the plays, the author often falls into stylistic contortions and strained anachronisms." - Robert Brustein, American Theatre, September 2008

Mention -Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, Tome LXX-2008

"The ambitious project of the Shakespeare NOW series is to bridge the gap between 'scholarly thinking and a public audience' and 'public audience and scholarly thinking'. Scholars are encouraged to write in a way accessible to a general readership and readers to rise to the challenge and not be afraid of new ideas and the adventure they offer. There are other bridges the series is ambitious to cross: 'formal, political or theoretical boundaries' - history and philosophy, theory, and performance." English Vol. 58, 2009

"[Shakespeare Now! is] an innovative new series... Series editors Simon Palfry and Ewan Fernie have rejected the notion of business as usual in order to pursue a distinctive strategy that aims to put "cutting-edge scholarship" in front of a broad audience. Shakespeare Now! with its insistent appeal to the contemporary- this is fresh Shakespeare for readers turned off by the prospect of dry-as-dust scholarship-aims to reach a general audience... Eric S. Mallin's Godless Shakespeare is perhaps the most self-consciously iconoclastic of the group.... [his] work is thoroughly and throughout personal... Mallin's is a courageous and fascinating performance, and there is no question that it grows out of some serious thinking... Godless Shakespeare is a deeply personal essay"

"Where is Shakespeare now? This question is the brief for a new series of short books from Continuum, an enterprising publisher trying to break down the border between academic literary criticism and books for the thoughtful general reader...Eric Mallan's Godless Shakespeare helpfully reminds us that the plays are fundamentally engaged with the art of being human and living in society, not with the different dispensations of the Catholic and Protestant churches." - Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph Sunday Telegraph

The King and I

Bloomsbury Publishing

"The ambitious project of the Shakespeare NOW series is to bridge the gap between 'scholarly thinking and a public audience' and 'public audience and scholarly thinking'. Scholars are encouraged to write in a way accessible to a general readership and readers to rise to the challenge and not be afraid of new ideas and the adventure they offer. There are other bridges the series is ambitious to cross: 'formal, political or theoretical boundaries' - history and philosophy, theory, and performance." English Vol. 58, 2009

"In The King and I, Philippa Kelly gives us an original and very personal response to a play she obviously loves and knows intimately. Remarkably, she is able to use the play as a prism through which to contemplate her life journey and to construct a commentary on modern Australia - refreshing and insightful."

Befitting its inclusion in a series entitled 'Shakespeare Now' and written with wry humour, humanity and passion, this concentrated and beguiling book not only opens up fresh ways of making the play relevant to students, but also points towards challenges in understanding and valuing Shakespeare today.

Reviewed in Cahiers Elisabethains

Kelly's way of thinking about art as alive within culture is contagious: while reading I wrestled with about precisely how I think this play is embedded within our culture and alive within myself... it is energising to read a book unashamedly invested in exploring the complex intersection between life and art.

The collection is much more than just a collection of personal thoughts on the play and its place in the writer's history . . . and it is hard to do it justice here. [Kelly's] approach moves from her own subjective reading and experience to open the play out potentially for others - critics, teachers, students, theatre professionals, and 'the general reader' . . .The book bridges both literary criticism and theatre studies, as well as providing a scholarly and personal account of the play. The Year's Work in English Studies, vol. 93

"In The King and I, Philippa Kelly has done a rare thing: she has written an original and deeply personal book about a Shakespearean tragedy that has been the object of exhausting and seemingly exhaustive critical attention. By bringing her life experience to bear on King Lear, by opening herself so completely and undefensively to its words and characters, Kelly illuminates the play's enduring power and freshness. At once a touching autobiographical memoir and a reflection on Australian history and culture, The King and I is a meditation on the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare's most searing tragedy."

"A fascinating exploration of Australian history and culture as seen through an intensely personal grapple with Shakespeare's monumental tragedy. Ms. Kelly's American readers will find that her observations about racism, immigration and the treatment of the elderly hit uncomfortably close to home."

"A strikingly original meditation on King Lear and Australian life, in which both the play and the culture are illuminated."

'For teachers who agonise over how to make Shakespeare "relevant", this is a luminously inspiring book. Kelly has packaged her wisdom and insights in an absolute page-turner about a girl growing to be adult and citizen, her mates from Lear always at her side. She shows how Lear can transform lives. What a gem!'

"In The King and I, Philippa Kelly, compelling Shakespeare scholar and dramaturge, stages a new Lear for us. She reads its dramatic themes into the landscape of an Australian life, and via that landscape, re-sculpts our own ways of encountering Lear. A rare and precious achievement."

Featured at no. 1 in the Independents top 10 listings within the 'Top Books' feature in The Courier-Mail.

The Life in the Sonnets

Bloomsbury Publishing

A passionately argued account of the value of experience and emotion in reading Shakespeare's sonnets and of the importance of reading poetry aloud. This book is accompanied by a companion website, featuring a complete reading of all 154 Shakespeare Sonnets.

The ambitious project of the Shakespeare NOW series is to bridge the gap between 'scholarly thinking and a public audience' and 'public audience and scholarly thinking'. Scholars are encouraged to write in a way accessible to a general readership and readers to rise to the challenge and not be afraid of new ideas and the adventure they offer. There are other bridges the series is ambitious to cross: 'formal, political or theoretical boundaries' - history and philosophy, theory, and performance. English Vol. 58

Reading [Shakespeare's sonnets] aloud is demonstrated to be a focused mode of criticism. ... Fuller shows the specific vocal and emotional intricacies, flexibility, intelligence, and delicacy required for an ideal rendering. The essay should become required reading for classical actors in training and voice coaches New Theatre Quarterly

[An] exciting and unusual book . . . bold and controversial . . . a provocation, intended to dislodge us from normative expectations about critical reading, and to change . . . the way we feel towards literature, each other, and the profession of literary studies. ... [A] thrilling little book The Cambridge Quarterly

This is a passionate book: a book about passion in literature, passion for literature, and passion in critical writing. David Fuller reminds us of the emotional and sensual pleasures of poetry and reintroduces terms such as "enjoyment", "engagement" and "feeling" to our critical vocabularies. This book will deepen the reader's engagement not just with Shakespeare's sonnets but with all kinds of art - written, acoustic and visual - as Fuller shows us how to bring personal experience to bear on critical analysis.

Featured in the Times Higher Education Literature Textbook round-up.

This slim and easy-to-read volume…concludes with a brief coda that pulls things together quite nicely. Sixteenth Century Journal

The Life in the Sonnets . . . looks at the sonnets in a different fashion to that currently employed by the majority of critics . . . Fuller talks at length about their rhyme and metre, producing evidence to support his initial claim that these are poems that have been written to be read aloud. To add weight to his argument, Fuller talks of vocal techniques employed by both actors and opera singers. The Year's Work in English Studies, vol. 93

Nine Lives of William Shakespeare

Bloomsbury Publishing

Acclaimed as the greatest dramatist of all time, William Shakespeare needs little introduction. Or does he? Going beyond Shakespeare the writer and actor, Graham Holderness explores the fact and fiction, tradition and myth, surrounding Shakespeare's life.

Combining biography and fictional narrative, Holderness takes a fresh critical approach to the problem of piecing together a definitive account of Shakespeare's life and work from scant historical information. Instead, this study builds upon and examines the many theories that surround the life of this well-known, yet remarkably unknown man. Nine Shakespeares are presented: writer, player, butcher boy, businessman, husband, friend, lover, Catholic and portrait. By carefully critiquing these biographies and reimagining these nine men, Nine Lives of William Shakespeare creates a unique picture of how this playwright became Shakespeare as he is understood today.

Shakespeare Now! is a series of short books that engage imaginatively and often provocatively with the possibilities of Shakespeare's plays. It goes back to the source – the most living language imaginable – and recaptures the excitement, audacity and surprise of Shakespeare. It will return you to the plays with opened eyes.

Required reading for anyone interested in Shakespeare's life or in how literary biography gets written. There's no better place to turn for distinguishing facts and traditions from more imaginative accounts of how Shakespeare became Shakespeare. Graham Holderness is a terrific guide and a talented writer.

There have of course been hundreds of biographies of William Shakespeare down the centuries, but none so breathtakingly nimble and adroit as this one. Shakespeare has long been a battleground between what can be historically verified and what in the end is simply speculation. Holderness – who is saturated in his subject – disentangles fact from fiction, but then starts to weave beautiful new tapestries of his own. This is the best and most enjoyably imaginative book on Shakespeare since Anthony Burgess' 'Nothing Like the Sun' – high praise, as Burgess' only rival was the chapter about Shakespeare in James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Were he to bound back from beyond the grave, this is the volume Shakespeare himself would most love reading. Daily Mail

Holderness brilliantly shows how biography is built of a writer's desire to create a coherent life picture, one that explains a particular view of Shakespeare . . . The book is immensely thoughtful and written so clearly that it will engage al readers. Choice Magazine

One of the most original of biographical essays on Shakespeare. El Pais

'Nine Lives' belongs to the Shakespeare Now! series, which is defined by its editors as "a rallying cry... for aesthetic immediacy" on the "premise that art is as much as subject as an object, less like aggregated facts and more like a fascinating person or persons". Graham Holderness's fictional experiments serve that argument in that they abandon the posture of objectivity, but more essentially in their enjoyment of the escape. He is scrupulous about the facts, but denies that "the more data we possess, the more solid and dependable will be our understanding of the life", and instead offers Shakespeare biography as an exercise in negative capability: a form of storytelling which knows that, beyond interpretation, "Shakespeare keeps his silence". Times Literary Supplement

Graham Holderness knows the power of the Shakespeare myth and its fictions . . . in this volume, he offers a twist . . . Recognising the flimsy factual basis for Shakespeare biography, he draws on wit and wordplay to flesh out a fiction more palatable than the po-faced fantasies of the scholarly biographers. The nine Shakespeares on show here - writer, player, butcher boy, businessman, husband, friend, lover, Catholic and portrait - are each lovingly dissected before being painstakingly reassembled Times Higher Education

Hugely enjoyable . . . brilliantly imagined . . . the most fun I have had from a Shakespeare biography in a long time. Shakespeare

Genuine, and often excellent, fiction . . . a gifted writer. Shakespeare Quarterly

As a biographical study, this is fascinating for the way in which it looks at possible interpretations of a long-bygone life . . . any devotee of the Bard, or even of Tudor social history, will certainly find much to savour here. The Bookbag

Though always displaying allegiance to the traditional Shakespeare story, Holderness critiques the biographies in useful ways and shows just how weak and tenuous many of their assertions are . . . a dazzling satire. The Brooklyn Rail

This book takes a novel approach by presenting nine different theories about the Bard's possible lives. The Catholic Herald

[A]n interesting literary biography in which Holderness uses a combination of critical essays and fictional narratives to explore nine aspects of Shakespeare's life and career. "The Adventure of Shakespeare's Ring" is a pastiche that has Holmes, Watson, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Oscar Wilde examining the possibility that Shakespeare was a homosexual. Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press Newsletter

[Nine Lives of William Shakespeare] takes a fresh look at the facts, the traditions, and the possible relations between his life and the works that life created. The Perth Shakespeare Club

Holderness includes a creative piece of his own which both illustrates the creative investment involved in biography and provides some ironic funpoking at the serious Shakespearean biographies he follows. Holderness even stretches his repertoire, one must admit with some success, at Shakespearean porn. English

A witty exploration of [a] mutable subject . . . Holderness' range is impressive and his experience as a poet and novelist is always in evidence Shakespeare Survey

Graham Holderness is one of the best-known and most prolific of British Shakespearean scholars, not least in the area of Shakespeare and popular culture … Holderness offers no conventional biography … There is much to admire in this book, and in particular, I applauded observations on the origin of Shakespeare's celebrity as deriving from his work as an actor. The Shakespeare Newsletter

Shakespeare and I

Bloomsbury Publishing

Following the ethos and ambition of the Shakespeare NOW! series, and harnessing the energy, challenge and vigour of the 'minigraph' form, Shakespeare and I is a provocative appeal and manifesto for a more personal form of criticism. A number of the most exciting and authoritative writers on Shakespeare examine and scrutinise their deepest, most personal and intimate responses to Shakespeare's plays and poems, to ask themselves if and how Shakespeare has made them the person they are. Their responses include autobiographical histories, reflections on their relationship to their professional, institutional or familial roles and meditations on the person-making force of religious or political conviction. The book aims to inspire readers to think and write about their ever-changing personal relationship with Shakespeare: about how the poems and plays - and writing about them - can reveal or transform our sense of ourselves.

'...a new critical anthology that makes a clear and badly needed intervention in today's world of academic Shakespeare scholarship, calling for a new critical practice in which the subjectivity of the critic-scholar is itself acknowledged, represented, and made the basis for creative readings of Shakespeare's works. Just as remarkably, they have recruited their authors from some of the leading practitioners of the field, all of whom respond enthusiastically and in a variety of moods and manners, to the challenge. This is a bold and memorable collection that will certainly impact the field.'

'These essays - frank, intensely personal, even confessional - in which eminent critics meditate on the deepest sources of their engagement with the dramatist add a new and profoundly revealing dimension to Shakespeare criticism.'

Summary Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

Shakespearean Metaphysics

Bloomsbury Publishing

Metaphysics is usually associated with that part of the philosophical tradition which asks about 'last things', questions such as: How many substances are there in the world? Which is more fundamental, quantity or quality? Are events prior to things, or do they happen to those things? While he wasn't a philosopher, Shakespeare was obviously interested in 'ultimates' of this sort. Instead of probing these issues with argument, however, he did so with plays. Shakespearean Metaphysics argues for Shakespeare's inclusion within a metaphysical tradition that opposes empiricism and Cartesian dualism. Through close readings of three major plays - The Tempest, King Lear and Twelfth Night - Witmore proposes that Shakespeare's manner of depicting life on stage itself constitutes an 'answer' to metaphysical questions raised by later thinkers as Spinoza, Bergson, and Whitehead. Each of these readings shifts the interpretative frame around the plays in radical ways; taken together they show the limits of our understanding of theatrical play as an 'illusion' generated by the physical circumstances of production.

'Foregrounding dramaturgy (the staging of bodies, audience, the materiality of performance) in Twelfth Night, King Lear, and The Tempest rather than ideas voiced in speeches, and deploying a different philosopher -- Whitehead, Bergson, Spinoza -- for each play, Witmore builds a compelling vision of Shakespeare as a metaphysician of immanence...Lucid and original.' - Brian Rotman, Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University, USA 

'Witmore's literary analyses of the plays' dramatic details are generally excellent...and his prose in most explications is supple, lucid, and often nicely poetic.'

Shakespeare Inside

Bloomsbury Publishing

Shakespeare Inside goes behind the scenes to reveal Shakespeare at work in the most decisive institutional context of our time - in prisons. Based upon the author's experience of watching prison yard rehearsals and performances, and interviewing inmates, program directors, and wardens, Shakespeare Inside is not an objective, dispassionate account of how Shakespeare is bastardized by repressive institutions but offers a record of fiercely personal experiences. We hear ex-offender Mike Smith detail how playing Desdemona was vital to his rehabilitation; we sit in the audience of women inmates as they respond to the all-male Shakespeare Behind Bars touring production of Julius Caesar; and we listen to a chorus of unnamed voices explain how rewriting Hamlet helps them to survive solitary confinement. Shakespeare Inside probes any assumptions we might have about Shakespeare's performative function and asks what - if anything - is the proper place of Shakespeare in today's society.

"This is a wonderfully honest book.  We really get to meet the inmates and see how Shakespeare has changed their lives. One cannot help being deeply moved by a prisoner who says, 'Shakespeare still lives even though he's dead. His spirit lives on. A lot of things that he wrote are happening in the world today.' The truth of this insight, and its special pertinence to those who are in prison, is borne out again and again in this totally absorbing and engagingly written book." David Bevington, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, University of Chicago, editor of Complete Works of Shakespeare

-Mention. Daily Telegraph/ April 8, 2007

[Scott-Douglass] craft(s) a deeply personal, and engrossing account of the ways in which 'secured Shakespeare programs' confront many of the same issues that trouble Shakespeare scholars... What makes these interviews lively to read, rather than a flat series of transcriptions is Amy's felt presence on the page.  I take the liberty of citing her by first name precisely because she conveys a persona throughout the study that invites familiarity... She manages to connect us even with those whose faces she cannot see in the most chilling isolated maximum-security cellblocks... Shakespeare Inside offers a compelling story that resists saccharine platitudes without curtailing empathy.' Scott L. Newstok, Rhodes College, USA, Review in The Upstart Crow, Summer 2007.

'[this book] is anecdotal rather than analytical, but the scenes she [Amy Scott-Douglass] describes are richly provocative...Prison, we discover, is one of the last bastions of unapologetic bardolatry.' Oliver Harris, TLS, December 2007.  

"Scott-Douglass's book is especially powerful because she captures these prisoners' lives in all of their complexity...Shakespeare provides beauty; catharsis; empathy for their victims; therapy." -Studies in English Literature

"The ambitious project of the Shakespeare NOW series is to bridge the gap between 'scholarly thinking and a public audience' and 'public audience and scholarly thinking'. Scholars are encouraged to write in a way accessible to a general readership and readers to rise to the challenge and not be afraid of new ideas and the adventure they offer. There are other bridges the series is ambitious to cross: 'formal, political or theoretical boundaries' - history and philosophy, theory, and performance." English Vol. 58, 2009

"[Shakespeare Now! is] an innovative new series... Series editors Simon Palfry and Ewan Fernie have rejected the notion of business as usual in order to pursue a distinctive strategy that aims to put "cutting-edge scholarship" in front of a broad audience. Shakespeare Now! with its insistent appeal to the contemporary- this is fresh Shakespeare for readers turned off by the prospect of dry-as-dust scholarship-aims to reach a general audience... One of the most winning aspects of the book [Shakespeare Inside] is its skillful presentation of testimony, largely drawn from interviews with the actor-prisoners. Scott-Douglass places herself squarely in the picture, acknowledging her own strong reactions to what she discovers in prison and reminding readers that her embodied presence provoked comments, just as her questions elicited confidences from the prisoners. In a compelling passage near the conclusion, Scott-Douglass describes in novelistic detail attending a parole hearing for one of the actors whose bid for freedom is denied... Shakespeare Inside offers firsthand reporting on contemporary Shakespeare that speaks to an enormous range of social and cultural issues and takes full advantage of the small format's immediacy. It is a thought-provoking account of the uses to which Shakespeare is being put outside the confines of the academy and the privileged performance venues that steadily attract a strange mixture of enthusiasts and the variously coerced... Shakespeare Inside is compelling journalism"

"Where is Shakespeare now? This question is the brief for a new series of short books from Continuum, an enterprising publisher trying to break down the border between academic literary criticism and books for the thoughtful general reader. Amy Scott-Douglass's book Shakespeare Inside based on observations and interviews, reveals how Shakespeare really can change lives." Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph Sunday Telegraph

"The author faced her fears, a decision, she says, that resulted in one of 'the most important and enlightening experiences of [her] adult life.' Based on observations and interviews, Shakespeare Inside: The Bard Behind Bars offers a voyeuristic peek inside the prison theatre program at Luther Luckett  Correctional Complex in La Grange, Kentucky...like an 'adventure story.'" - Text and Presentation Tidings

Shakespeare's Modern Collaborators

Bloomsbury Publishing

Recent work in Shakespeare studies has brought to the forefront a variety of ways in which the collaborative nature of Shakespearean drama can be investigated: collaborative performance (Shakespeare and his fellow actors); collaborative writing (Shakespeare and his co-authors); collaborative textual production (Shakespeare and his transcribers and printers). What this leaves unaccounted for is the form of collaboration that affects more than any other our modern reading experience of Shakespeare's plays: what we read as Shakespeare now always comes to us in the form of a collaborative enterprise - and is decisively shaped by the nature of the collaboration - between Shakespeare and his modern editors.

Contrary to much recent criticism, this book suggests that modern textual mediators have a positive rather than negative role: they are not simply 'pimps of discourse' or cultural tyrants whose oppressive interventions we need to 'unedit' but collaborators who can decisively shape and enable our response to Shakespeare's plays. Erne argues that any reader of Shakespeare, scholar, student, or general reader, approaches Shakespeare through modern editions that have an endlessly complicated and fascinating relationship to what Shakespeare may actually have intended and written, that modern editors determine what that relationship is, and that it is generally a very good thing that they do so.

"This witty, elegant and lucid book gives centre stage to the people who have interpreted and analysed Shakespeare before we read him: the editors. On page after page, Erne's carefully chosen textual examples illustrate not just the purpose but the *value* of editing. A joy to read, this is also an important contribution to our understanding of the way Shakespeare has been mediated to us in the past - and in the present." - Tiffany Stern, Oxford University

'Lukas Erne's Shakespeare's Modern Collaborators... argues that of the various modern mediators of the playwright's work, the most important is the modern editor, who makes it possible for readers today to comprehend the text in ways that mirror (not match) those of their early modern counterparts. In doing so, Erne challenges recent perceptions of the Shakespearean editor as either a "harmless drudge" or, citing the "unediting" movement of the past decade, a "harmful 'obfuscator'" who obscures or blocks meaning inherent in the original editions and often advances "sexist and imperialist assumptions" (pp. 4, 5, 9). These are serious problems but they are solved not by no edition but be better editing. The three central chapters examine the range of tasks in establishing the text, such as addressing questions of spelling and punctuation, emending doubtful readings, and inserting act and scene divisions (chapter 1); surveying forms of editorial intervention involving annotation, collation, etc. (chapter 2); and discussing the mediation of stage action (chapter 3). Erne reserves chapter 4 to show how all of these important responsibilities can impact upon a single play, King Lear. The book concludes by discussing the exciting ways in which dedicated editors of the future can provide new generations of readers and spectators with digital editions. This book is timely, lucidly written, and of special value to scholars and students interested in a concisely written and up-to-date overview of play-editing practices.'

'Against the ordinary person's vision of the editor as harmless drudge and the rival academic view of the editor as harmful obfuscator (pace Michael Warren or Leah Marcus), this short, dispassionate, lucidly argued volume seeks to illuminate the value of a fully mediated, "fully edited" version of the plays (7). It is worth noting the book's dispassion because while its title nods in the direction of sometimes self-indulgent celebrations of the editor as poetic compatriot (i.e., collaborator), Erne's argument is conspicuous for its moderation. Editors give us a more accessible and (important for Erne, author of Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist) a more readable Shakespeare.'

Erne offers an interesting discussion of the rethinking of the plays' order of composition that must have occurred between publication of the Oxford Complete Works' first edition in 1986 and the second edition of 2005.

"Lukas Erne does us a great service by correcting, with such scrupulous care, the Romantic myth that Shakespeare was a solitary genius. This lucidly written analysis makes clear that Shakespeare's work has been shaped profoundly by four sorts of collaboration: co-authorship in quite a few instances, the staging of the plays with fellow actors, the printing process, and the interventions of editors down through the centuries. Erne convincingly defends editing as potentially beneficial and creative in the best sense. What we mean by 'Shakespeare', then, is rich, complex, and ever enlarging in an ongoing collaboration involving the text, the stage, the critic, the reader, and the viewer." - David Bevington, Department of English Language, University of Chicago, USA, Editor of The Complete Works of Shakespeare

Mention in Today's Books/ Bookweek 

'Lukas Erne's new book is certainly one of the most fascinating, thought-provoking and lucid studies of Shakespeare I can remember reading."- Robert C. Evans, Ben Jonson Journal

"The purpose of Shakespeare Now! is to produce a series of minigraphs to illuminate current challenges in Shakespearean scholarship in a fresh and accessible way. Appropriately, Lukas Erne's discussion mirrors this strategy by positing the role of the editor as a bridge between the Elizabethan era and our own times...he makes a strong case for the neglected and fundamental role of editors as proactive, creative collaborators bringing works to life for the reader and spectator." - Kenneth Schlesinger, Broadside, Summer 2008

"The ambitious project of the Shakespeare NOW series is to bridge the gap between 'scholarly thinking and a public audience' and 'public audience and scholarly thinking'. Scholars are encouraged to write in a way accessible to a general readership and readers to rise to the challenge and not be afraid of new ideas and the adventure they offer. There are other bridges the series is ambitious to cross: 'formal, political or theoretical boundaries' - history and philosophy, theory, and performance." English Vol. 58, 2009

"A selection of reviews of Erne's last book, Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist: The year's best book on Shakespeare - Jonathan Bate, TLS 'Erne's brilliant new book...sets out probably the most exhilarating change in our image of Shakespeare as a writer for decades...It is the work of a scholar who here and in the years to come has a vast amount to teach us about Shakespeare, making him new, just as every performanace makes the particular play new.' - Peter Holland, University of Notre Dame 'an unusually lively and provocative book" - David Scott Kastan, Columbia University, "Lukas Erne's new book is certainly one of the most fascinating, thought-provoking and lucid studies of Shakespeare I can remember reading." - Robert C. Evans, Ben Jonson Journal Blurb from reviewer

"Erne offers a succinct review of contemporary debates over editorial practice and, most important, foregrounds the relationship between editing and production, raising many relevant questions that warrant the attention of editors, directors, and instructors. Summing up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, and professionals." - R. A. Stritmatter, CHOICE, September 2008 Choice

Shakespeare's Universality: Here's Fine Revolution

Bloomsbury Publishing

Through close readings of a wide range of plays and poems, Kiernan Ryan's compelling polemic sets out to reclaim the idea of Shakespeare's timeless universality from reactionary and radical critics alike. Its argument is driven throughout by the belief that at this moment in history the need to recognise and activate the revolutionary potential of Shakespeare's drama is more urgent than ever.

This volume was shortlisted for the European Society for the Study of English 2016 Prize for the best critical study in the field of Literatures in the English Language.

'[Ryan] argues powerfully against the 'arid antiquarianism' of historicist scholarship, and offers instead a Shakespeare always out of sync with his own time and thus able to transcend it ... [A] highly readable book.' Around the Globe

Shakespeare Now! is a series of short books that engage imaginatively and often provocatively with the possibilities of Shakespeare's plays. It goes back to the source -- the most living language imaginable -- and recaptures the excitement, audacity and surprise of Shakespeare. It will return you to the plays with opened eyes.