How To Do Things With Shakespeare: New Approaches, New Essays
April 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
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–Bruce Smith, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
"This collection of essays on How To Do Things with Shakespeare, edited by Laurie Maguire, takes a wonderfully fresh and unusual approach to its subject. The essays about individual works center in some cases on texts too often neglected: Cymbeline, Henry VIII, Love's Labour's Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona,and The Winter's Tale, along with the more familiar A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, and the Sonnets. The topics are equally arresting in their freshness of approach: how to do things with sources, history, texts, animals, posterity. Animals! This is Maguire's splendid approach to the question she has put to herself, what the next stage in 'body' criticism might be. To provide an answer, she calls on Erica Fudge to ask such questions as, Can animals feel shame? Can they lose bladder control? as in the case of Lance's fabulous dog in The Two Gentlemen. Paul Yachnin addresses such puzzles by thinking about Renaissance ideas of sheep and what they can tell us about personhood. The question, How to do things with texts? is perhaps less off-beat, but it here produces no less innovative answers from Tiffany Stern: not the usual explanation of how quartos differ from folios and all that, but instead pioneering textual analysis of how the language of books is used to describe staging, and, conversely, how the language of the stage can be used to describe reading. Anthony Dawson asks in what way our thinking about the nature of texts has changed in recent years and how that change affects the actual process of editing. Source study is rescued from the low estate into which it has fallen recently by three new and flexible ways of thinking about influence. Similar pairings of approaches offer delight and revelation about every topic in this engaging and highly readable book. The studies are admirably cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural. This is a companion to Shakespeare with a difference. Vive la différance!"
–David Bevington, University of Chicago