The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0129  Monday, 24 January 2005

From:           Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jan 2005 23:22:51 -0800
Subject:        "Who Owns Shakespeare?" NYTBR Asks

The NYTimes Book Review on Sunday had an essay (by Rachel Donadio) about
the academic vs. popular reception of Will in the World, which "was on
this paper's best-seller list for nine weeks. Its publisher, W. W.
Norton, estimates that out of 200,000 copies in print, 150,000 have been

She wonders "whether it belongs on the nonfiction list, where it was, or
the fiction one..." and quotes Richard Jenkyns' hilarious mocking of
Greenblatt's technique in the New Republic:  ''Some people have
birthmarks, and so Shakespeare may have had one. If he had a birthmark
(and this cannot be proved), it would have added to his
self-consciousness when he came to London. In romances, the lost
princess is often identified by a birthmark, but Perdita, the lost
princess in 'The Winter's Tale,' is identified by some tokens; and this
at once becomes explicable if Shakespeare was sensitive about his

Some scholars "see it as a kind of refutation of new historicism...As
one scholar wisecracked, 'For a million-dollar advance, the author
exists!'  But a more common response is, why didn't Greenblatt write
another work of new historicism? Why rely on speculation rather than
peel away the 'layers of significance in the play and its revelation of
the fault lines in Elizabethan culture -- which is what his own previous
practice would have led us to expect him to do?'  as Jonathan Bate wrote
in The Telegraph...

"For his part, Greenblatt called 'Will in the World' 'a sly work of new
historicism,'  and placed it in the context of contemporary literary
biography.  'It comes out of the other side of what new historicists and
postmodernists understood, which is that lives aren't simply given, that
they're fashioned -- fashioned by people as they live them and fashioned
by us,' Greenblatt said in a telephone interview. 'The life of the
author isn't an inert background to the works. The life is part of what
the author is transforming into his or her achievement.'''

All told, the essay is somewhat dismissive of academics' concerns about
the book.  More at

Al Magary

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