Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar, Trinity Term 2011

July 6, 2011

The Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar explored different aspects of representation in early modern drama. In the light of his research on early modern writing on memory and the ars memoriae, Rhodri Lewis reconsidered Hamlet’s second soliloquy,  in which he first responds to the revelations of Claudius’ treachery, within the reconstructed contexts of it pays particular attention to Hamlet’s claim that his memory can be subject to erasure at his will. Rather than losing his focus on revenge at some point in the middle of the play (on account of moral, philosophical, psychological, religious or juridical scruples), Lewis argued, from the moment the revenge plot is set in motion, Hamlet struggles against the very lack of vividness with which his filial duties exist in his mind. Gordon Teskey (Harvard) asked ‘What is Comus?’, drawing attention to the problematic status of a masque as between historical event and poetic creation, and offering an acute though friendly challenge to contemporary historicist criticism of Milton. David Bevington (University of Chicago) offered challenges of a different kind to much current work on ‘Shakespeare on Religion’, highlighting the resistance of the plays to confessional paradigms of all kinds; Professor Bevington showed his command of the whole Shakespearean canon, and discussion ranged from John Shakespeare’s will to the recent discovery of a Jane Shaxspere who had drowned while picking flowers in the Stratford area.

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