Tag Archives: Shakespeare

  • The Renaissance and Reformation in Northern Europe

    To mark the publication of The Renaissance and Reformation in Northern Europe, editor Margaret McGlynn provides some background on the Reformation, as well as the principles that guided the editing of this fantastic new collection. 

    The Reformation was not an event that happened in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, but a process. 1517 marked a pivotal moment in that process, but it was a moment that was possible because reformers had been calling for change in a number of different ways, because humanists had been altering the way that theologians and scholars and laymen could interact with the Bible, and because the printing press allowed new ideas to travel more quickly than ever before. There was no way of knowing what Luther’s revelation might lead to but it proved to be the opening blast in an astonishing eruption of new ideas: calls for change in church, state, and community which would set Europe ablaze in the century that followed.

    The Renaissance and Reformation in Northern EuropeThough we can study the Reformation primarily as a religious event, The Renaissance and Reformation in Northern Europe also encourages readers to consider its reverberations through European society. In his declaration of the importance of sola scriptura, Luther unwittingly laid the groundwork for questioning all other forms of authority and his followers quickly, and often to his frustration, pursued all the possible implications of his dictum. The Bible was used as justification for peasants to revolt against their masters, for lords to kill peasants, for new forms of church organization and social organization, for women to claim a new role in the church and for men to deny it to them. Those who found themselves living in the brave new world of a disunited Christendom faced many more choices than ever before as they sought to re-structure their societies.

    In the midst of new problems and new opportunities most people continued to grapple with age-old problems: the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children; the desire for wealth and the fear of poverty; the sadness of death and the hope of salvation. Few, however, remained untouched by the vast and sweeping changes of the period, and the texts in The Renaissance and Reformation in Northern Europe allow the reader to see the various interconnections between the new approaches to learning and teaching expounded by the humanists, the new approaches to religious and social life propounded by the reformers, and the new societies imagined and created by men and women of all creeds and stations. Some big themes run through the entire collection, such as legitimate forms of authority and the nature of obedience, but there are lots of sub-themes to explore: the hierarchical structures of society, the role of history in understanding the present, the ways in which knowledge is transmitted and absorbed, the value of experience over book-learning, and the proper—and improper—relations between men and women, masters and servants. And all of these are in the voices of the people who lived through this process, who theorized and argued, recalled and explained, dreamed and imagined. Their views are not tidy or clear cut and certainly not consistent—they were figuring things out as they went along, just like we do today. But the views are authentic: each invites us to consider a slice of a real life and someone else’s experience, belief, hope, fear, or plan.

    The first half of our collection is laid out in roughly chronological order while the second half is more thematic. Some of the texts here will be familiar to instructors—a course on the Northern Renaissance and Reformation must have Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, and Loyola and will probably have Montaigne, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Rabelais, but beyond the core there are always options. We wanted a variety of geographical perspectives so we included Conrad Celtis and Juan Luis Vives, both of whom are clearly in the same tradition of Northern humanism as Erasmus but who bring very different perspectives on the reform of both the church and the state. When Celtis declares that Italians and Germans “would never have been restrained from mutual slaughter if provident nature had not separated us by the Alps and by cliffs raised up to the stars” he gives us a whole new perspective on both the transmission of Italian humanism to the north and the kinds of emotions that would feed into the Reformation.

    We wanted to explore the role of women in the early Reformation so we turned to Katherine Zell, Argula von Grumbach, and Anne Askew to see how women from different places and social contexts interpreted their own role in the Reformation and its implications for them. Zell declared herself “a church mother, a nurturer of the pulpit and school,” packaging a radical claim in a traditional female box, while Argula von Grumbach asked “Which doctor has made a greater vow in baptism than I have? Which pope, or emperor, or prince?” and Anne Askew affirmed that “those Scriptures that Christ has left here with us are sufficient for our learning and salvation so that I believe we need no unwritten truths to rule his church with.” Their views reflect the attitudes of the male Reformers but also raise questions about the role of women in the new church and how that might affect attitudes to and of women in other contexts, from Marguerite de Navarre to John Knox to Elizabeth I.

    We also wanted to explore the importance of economic turmoil and the numerous ways in which it appears in the sources all across Europe, from the articles of the Swabian peasants, which claimed that according to Scripture “we are and will be free” to Fish’s “Supplication” berating the clergy who divert alms from the needy whose “number is daily so sore increased that all the alms of all well-disposed people of this your realm is not half enough for to sustain them,” to the proposals for social assistance put forward by Vives, since “in the state the weak may not be neglected without danger to the strong” and the radical suggestions for the reform of criminal law voiced by More’s Raphael Hythloday. Even the explorers who went both east and west were looking for markets in which to sell the products of their workers as well as markets from which to buy the wonders of the East.

    Some of the texts were edited or modernized for this edition to provide voices that often are not heard. William Caxton, for example, lets us hear the musings of an early printer on what he can sell and to whom—not to a “rude uplandish man to labour therein nor to read it, but only for a clerk and a noble gentleman that experiences and understands feats of arms, love and noble chivalry”—taking us inside the business of printing at the very beginning. In contrast, Cervantes gives us a sense of a reading public—and one with clear expectations—in the early seventeenth century. The N-Town Mary and Joseph play gives us a vivid glimpse of what medieval people imagined had happened when the neighbours discovered that Mary “made a vow never to lie with a man, but to live a chaste and clean virgin. How ever it be, her womb does swell and is as great as yours or mine!” This unusual approach to the holy family interacts nicely with the sources on family, gender, and hierarchy as well as the concerns of both the reformers and the reformed. John Shute lets us see the early transmission of Italian ideas on architecture to England while Thomas Elyot helps us understand how, to a humanist, everything, even dance, could be humanism.

    Each text comes with a brief introduction, just enough to provide context rather than interpretation, and each text is short enough to be assigned in combination but long enough to give a real sense of the author and the issues it presents. We have taught with some of these sources for close to twenty years. Over that time we’ve re-worked the selections to interact in as many different ways as we could, not just to provide us with a variety of ways to present the culture and the cadence of the period but to also give our students as wide a range of jumping-off spots for their own interests as possible. We hope you’ll find that the sources are rich enough to be mixed and matched in whatever ways suit your style and interests and that you have as much fun teaching with them as we’ve had.

    Margaret McGlynn is Associate Professor of History at Western University in London, Ontario.

    Note: If you are an instructor and would like to consider The Renaissance and Reformation in Northern Europe for an upcoming course, please email requests@utphighereducation.com to request an examination copy.

  • Behind the Book with Jennifer Drouin

    9781442647978Jennifer Drouin is the author of Shakespeare in Quebec: Nation, Gender, and Adaptation. In Shakespeare in Québec, Jennifer Drouin analyses representations of nation and gender in Shakespearean adaptations written in Québec since the Quiet Revolution.

    How did you become involved in your area of research?

    This research topic was a way for me to combine my two strongest passions, Shakespeare studies and Québec studies. I’m an anglophone, but I did my undergraduate studies entirely in French at an Acadian university where most of my professors were Québécois. I quickly fell in love with Québécois culture, which was a new and exciting revelation once I had learned enough French to understand it. I now consider Québec my home, yet I’ve never forgotten my roots in Nova Scotia where Shakespeare was very important to me growing up in a Loyalist town with deep colonial ties to British culture. My scholarly trajectory has alternated back-and-forth between English and French. One summer I was browsing in a friend’s used bookstore on rue Hart in Trois-Rivières (“bouquiner,” a word I like as much as the activity itself), and I stumbled across an original edition of Robert Gurik’s Hamlet, prince du Québec, and, voilà, le tour était joué! With this research, I wanted to bridge the “two solitudes” by bringing an analysis of Québécois plays in French to an anglophone audience. I’m fascinated by the Québécois nationalist movement and its long, rich history, but I’d always been interested in feminism, gender, and sexuality studies too, so rather than focus on only nation or only gender in the plays I decided to look at both and the relationship between the two.

    What do you wish other people knew about your area of research?

    I wish scholars would take care with the word “adaptation,” which people tend to throw around a lot as a catch-all term, often without defining it. I proposed my own theory of adaptation in the book because over the past decade or so adaptation studies has taken off, especially with the increasing interest in postcolonial and global Shakespeares, but that has meant that we have more scholars using the term in different ways. I don’t expect everyone to adopt my definitions, but I would like to see others take care to define how they use the term and hopefully adopt my proposal to use qualifying adjectives to distinguish between different media and genres. Stage plays and cinematic adaptations are very different cultural products, and there are multiple types of stage adaptation that need qualification before we can compare them to each other in productive ways.

    What’s the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of your research?

    The sheer magnitude of Québécois adaptations of Shakespeare is startling. I started this project with just one play, Gurik’s Hamlet, prince du Québec, and then I discovered Michel Garneau and a few other authors, then I saw the production of Henry. Octobre. 1970., and by the time I finished the book I had uncovered 37 adaptations, and that’s not counting the many direct translations, stage productions, titular allusions, and cinematic adaptations that I excluded from the book. It is surprising to discover that Shakespeare is a more popular author in Québec than Molière, at least when it comes to rewriting these canonical authors to suit contemporary social and political agendas.

    Do you have to travel much concerning the research/writing of your book?

    I travel every summer, which is truly a pleasure. Since I’m currently a professor at the University of Alabama, I return home to Montréal for three and a half months when classes are not in session. Most of the adapted plays I wrote about can be found in the archives of the Centre des auteurs dramatiques which is now in the Old Port area downtown, I conducted a lot of research at McGill’s library, and a good chunk of this book was written at Café Expressions on Avenue Mont-Royal where I was a regular fixture. Obviously, it helps to be immersed in Québécois culture when writing about it, so just hearing people talking on the streets, songs on the radio, and watching television or films when I wasn’t writing provided inspiration and sometimes helped make ideas click. I also travel regularly to national and international conferences to present this work, and as a result of a conference I attended in France I was invited to be a visiting professor for a month last year at Université du Havre and to present my work in Montpellier. It’s exciting to see how Québécois Shakespeares are received in France and to discern the linguistic and cultural similarities and differences between Québec and France.

    What are your current/future projects?

    My work on this book has not ended but rather has dovetailed into Shakespeare au/in Québec (SQ), which is a bilingual, open-access digital humanities project dedicated to producing a critical anthology and interactive database. Of the 37 adaptations mentioned in the book, 25 are not in print and are currently inaccessible to scholars, teachers, theatre practitioners, and the general public. Of the 12 plays that are in print, none exists in a critical edition. SQ will mark up the play texts in TEI-compliant XML and create two sets of pop-up bubble annotations; the first set cross-references the French plays with the Shakespearean source text in English while the second set explains all the historical and political allusions one would traditionally annotate in the footnotes of a print edition. The SQ site will also have a searchable database of each play’s theatre history and production details, as well as multimedia image, audio, and video files; a bibliography of secondary sources on these plays, including production reviews; academic essays providing critical analyses of the plays; interviews with playwrights; writings on the literary and political history of Québec; and information about non-adaptations (such as direct translations, innovative stage productions, and titular allusions) and cinematic adaptations.

    What do you like to read for pleasure? What are you currently reading?

    As an academic, I rarely get to read for pleasure; most of the time, I read for work. However, I have been trying to recapture the joy of reading that first made me want to study literature in the first place, so I’m catching up on classics of contemporary Canadian and Québécois literature. I recently read Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees (1996), which takes place in Nova Scotia where I grew up. Set at the turn of the 20th century, this novel portrays, sadly, all too accurately the secrecy, racism, abuse, and homophobia typical of small town life, which still exists today in some rural communities. This book blew me away and I wish I had read it sooner. Now I’m reading Michel Tremblay’s novel La Nuit des princes charmants (1995), which I picked up last summer at a Fierté littéraire Q&A session Tremblay did as part of Montréal’s Pride week. One of the many things I love about Québec is that as a small nation its cultural stars are often very down-to-earth and accessible to the general public, unlike, say, Hollywood. In the US, politicians try to craft an image as someone with whom an ordinary Joe could have a beer, but that’s just spin. In Québec, one really can chat one-on-one with a famous author of Michel Tremblay’s calibre, a filmmaker, a television star, or a politician.

    What is your favourite book?

    Shakespeareans often get asked what their favourite play is. For the depth of the writing and emotional impact, King Lear is my favourite, and I teach a course on sources and adaptations of King Lear that starts with Geoffrey of Monmouth and covers several theatrical adaptations, including Jean-Pierre Ronfard’s Lear which I discuss in my book, as well as Jane Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres and several cinematic productions and adaptations. King Lear is so rich that it’s not surprising that it’s one of Shakespeare’s most frequently adapted plays. My other favourite play, The Two Noble Kinsmen which Shakespeare co-wrote with John Fletcher, is less well-known. I like it because it’s Shakespeare’s queerest play, full of both male and female homoeroticism, and because it’s interesting to see how Shakespeare and Fletcher adapted the story from Boccaccio’s Teseida and Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. We tend to think of Shakespeare as a creative genius, but we tend to forget that he was the ultimate adapter whose plays are rewritten from prior source texts.

    In non-Shakespearean literature, I have fond memories of reading children’s editions of Dickens when I was a kid, as well as Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, so I was thrilled to visit the Château d’If off the coast of Marseille when I was in France last year, but if I had to pick a single favourite it would be Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Hall. A Shakespeare conference in Australia a few years ago provided the opportunity to realize a childhood dream and stop off in Tahiti where I got to taste breadfruit, the impetus for Fletcher Christian and William Bligh’s excursion. Dickens, Dumas, and the Bounty remain favourites because they were windows into historic, foreign worlds peopled with compelling characters; they inspired me to travel as an adult because they captured my imagination as a child and moved and transported me, as great literature should.

    If you weren’t working in academia, what would you be doing instead?

    I would be a lawyer or a politician or ideally both. While I was writing a substantial portion of this book, I did a lot of volunteer political work on the side and I felt pulled between the two career paths. I would like to write laws that shape society, help people, and make the world a better place, especially for those who are disenfranchised or marginalized.

  • Behind the Book with Vin Nardizzi

    9781442646001Vin Nardizzi is the author of Wooden Os. Wooden Os is a study of the presence of trees and wood in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries – in plays set within forests, in character dialogue, and in props and theatre constructions.

    What do you find most interesting about your area of research? | What do you wish other people knew about your area of research?

    Wooden Os is an example of "historical ecocriticism," a subfield of ecocriticism, which has been theorized as a method that typically, but not uniformly, concerns the here-and-now, and the future, of the planet's environmental health. My book participates in an ongoing conversation that aims to document a longer view of such environmental matters and, in so doing, offers narratives about how the planet got to where it currently is environmentally and about how it might have been - and still may be - otherwise. What's unique about Wooden Os in the subfield of historical ecocriticism and is most interesting to me is its focus on an entertainment venue that was new to people living in and around early modern London: the outdoor, commercial playhouse where drama was performed, for the price of admission, on a regular basis. My book asks how this entertainment venue was materially implicated in England's environmental crises and how it engaged the discourses surrounding these crises in the dramas that were staged there. My hope is that scholars and students of historical ecocriticism who read Wooden Os will further explore the relations among theatre, aesthetics, and environmentalism in the period.

    What's the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of your research? | Do you have to travel much concerning the research/writing of your book? | What was the hardest part of writing your book?

    Wooden Os explores the relation between actual locations - London's outdoor theaters, which were constructed mainly of wood - and England's woodlands, which, at the time, some writers imagined to be threatened by imminent environmental ruin. As do many scholars, I like to have several objects pertaining to my project surrounding me at my desk when I write: photocopies of the plays in the early editions; my Norton Shakespeare; stacks of history books; and a number of visual representations of London dating from the period. But I discovered early in the writing process that the two things I could not have close by were the theatres and the trees, my book's marquee subjects. Since the theatres were disassembled in the seventeenth century and since industrialization has changed England's environment so dramatically, I only had their traces at my disposal: some archival (and well-known) materials about the use of tree stage props and about the construction of the theatres; carefully researched accounts of specific theatrical architectures, many of which were based on the archival materials and on archeological details made newly available after the area on the Bankside where Shakespeare's Globe and Henslowe's Rose stood had been excavated; and some articles in the fields of economics and historical forestry that tracked the use of wood and timber in the construction of London's sixteenth- and seventeenth-century buildings. In short, I couldn't touch or be inside these theatres and woodlands; I could only imagine what it may have felt like to be inside them by means of records that were sometimes twice removed or proven to be inaccurate and, in one case, even a forgery. I discovered after drafting the book that I had written a material history of England's theatres and woodlands without having experienced these locations myself. In seeing the forests inside the walls of the playhouses, Wooden Os is my attempt, as a scholar, to re-imagine and re-mediate possible theatrical experiences.

    In preparing the book, I decided to walk some paths through old growth forests outside San Francisco and on Vancouver Island, and twice I visited the replica Globe in London. Hiking through "Cathedral Grove" - or what's left of it - on Vancouver Island was pure magic: there's a palpable stillness, even as life on all scales bustles around you, and, walking under the forest canopy and in its freshest of air, I experienced a sense of wonder like I had never experienced before, especially when I saw for the first time moss "upholstering" the ancient tree trunks and branches. As I describe in the "Epilogue" to Wooden Os, a production of As You Like It at the Globe generated for me a similar feeling of wonder when, by means of theatrical magic, the crew transformed the architectural space of the theatre into the Forest of Arden by stripping away the black fabric that was covering the stage posts. Many of us in the audience gasped: we were made to see, in a new and surprising way, the constitutive tree-ness of the theatre during this moment of "dis-upholstering." I think, then, of Wooden Os as my attempt to imagine, with meager archival evidence, how playgoers in Shakespeare's day might have responded to moments, which are scripted in the plays, when characters entered a forest and call explicit attention to their wooded surroundings.

    What are your current/future projects?

    Tentatively entitled Vaster Than Empires: The Lives of Early Modern Vegetables, my new research project is an offshoot of Wooden Os. This new project continues my interest in historicizing ecocritical inquiry, but its literary focus is broader than the dramatic texts that I study in Wooden Os. It explores the vast reach of "vegetable life" in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century letters and illuminates the surprising vegetable capacities, deprivations, materialities, and necessities that, in early modern ethical, political, and scientific registers, constituted the human being, a creature so closely allied with and routinely defined against "the animal" in Scholastic and post-Cartesian articulations of humanness. Vaster Than Empires re-adjusts this creaturely vision by demonstrating the centrality of the vegetable to the lives of humans in early modern English culture. Key figures discussed in Vaster Than Empires will include Aristotle, Bacon, Descartes, Donne, Machiavelli, Harriot, Marvell, Montaigne, Seneca, Sidney, John Smith, Spenser, and, of course, Shakespeare.

    Vaster than Empires also constitutes my contribution to a new research cluster that colleagues at SFU and UBC and I have established. Called "Oecologies: Inhabiting Premodern Worlds," this cluster will kick off this year (on 23 October) with a Thematic Speaker Series at UBC's Green College and aims to convene conferences and workshops on various eco-themes in upcoming years. To learn more about the cluster and events, visit Green College UBC.

3 Item(s)