Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography
An NEH Collaborative Research Conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library
3 - 5 April 2014
There is no more iconic figure with whom to push forward a fresh critical evaluation of the aims and methods of literary biography than Shakespeare. Within the academy, textual analysis often denies biography any explanatory force, while popular conceptions of Shakespeare look to biography precisely for insight into the works. In the standoff, the genre of literary biography is lost as a subject of serious inquiry. On the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, the Folger Institute Center for Shakespeare Studies will undertake a rigorous investigation of the multiple—and conflicted—roles biography plays in the reception of Shakespeare today. A cadre of influential scholars, many of whom have written biographies of Shakespeare, will focus discussion on such topics as the distinctions between authorship and agency, the interpretations of documentary evidence, the impact of methods of dating texts on an understanding of Shakespeare’s life, the broadened context for that life of a more robust understanding of theatrical activity, and the possibility that biography is itself a form of historical fiction. The conference opens Thursday evening with a session that doubles as Shakespeare’s Birthday Lecture. In his presentation on “Shakespeare, Biography & Anti-Biography,” Brian Cummings will discuss the problem of writing the life of Shakespeare in terms of the documentary history and its haunting sense of missing links.
Thursday, 3 April 2014
Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture
Shakespeare, Biography & Anti-Biography
Brian Cummings, Anniversary Professor of English at the University of York
Friday, 4 April 2014
On the Genre of Literary Biography
Shakespeare's Place in the Oxford DNB
Lawrence Goldman, Professor of History at the University of Oxford and Editor, ODNB
Interfiliations: Shakespeare and the Lives of Others
Ian Donaldson, Emeritus Professor of Culture and Communication at the
University of Melbourne
On the History of Biographies of Shakespeare
A Legacy Takes Hold
Jack Lynch, Acting Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at
Biography and Celebrity Culture
Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theatre and English at Yale University
Lunch (provided in Great Hall)
Rethinking the Documentary Evidence
Everyone and No-one: Fact, Tradition, and Invention in Shakespeare Biography
Graham Holderness, Professor of English at the University of Hertfordshire
The Intentionality of the Archive
Lena Cowen Orlin, Professor of English at Georgetown University
Tea (Great Hall)
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Biography, Theater, History
Shakespeare, Man of the Theater
Lois Potter, Emerita Ned B. Allen Professor of English at the University of Delaware
What Difference does a Date Make?
Margreta de Grazia, Emerita Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania
Who Are We Looking For?
Early Modern English Portraiture
Tarnya Cooper, Curator of Sixteenth Century Collections, National Portrait Gallery
Believing in Shakespeare / Shakespeare's Beliefs: Religion and the Dilemmas of Drama
Julia Reinhard Lupton, Professor of English and Interim Chair at the
University of California, Irvine
Lunch (provided in Great Hall)
What Do We Expect of the Author?
What is the Biographers' Investment in the Biographical Subject?
John Drakakis, Professor of Literature and Languages at the University of Stirling
Secrets and Ciphers: Decoding the Decoders
William H. Sherman, Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of York
Where Are We Now?
Full Circle: Biography and Literature
Katherine Duncan-Jones, Professor of English at the University of Oxford
Stories about the Dead
Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University
Closing Reception (Great Hall)
Apply: 13 January 2014 for grants-in-aid to support travel and lodging. A NEH Collaborative Research grant extends funding eligibility to qualified graduate students and faculty from U.S. institutions. Click here for the application form.
Registration: For those not planning to request travel and lodging funding, a registration form is available here.
Any views, findings,conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this conference and this webpage do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for