In this podcast Dr Neema Parvini, author of Shakespeare’s History Plays: Rethinking Historicism and Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory: New Historicism and Cultural Materialism and Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey, interviews various Shakespeare scholars and literary theorists from around the world in a bid to gain an understanding of the current state of play in Shakespeare studies and in literary criticism more generally. Through a series of candid talks, it will tackle the biggest theoretical and practical questions that have preoccupied scholars and readers of Shakespeare alike for generations: the idea that history is driven by human beings versus the idea that it is driven by forces beyond our control, the individual versus society, nature versus nurture, and freedom versus determinism.
In this first episode, Neema is joined by one of the founders of cultural materialism, Professor Jonathan Dollimore. Topics include: the importance of interdisciplinary study; differences between the French and English versions of Marxism; Karl Marx; Jean-Paul Sartre; George Steiner; Cilla Black, the 1960s and cultural memory; nature versus nurture and the question of sexuality; how Stephen Greenblatt is a bit like Bob Dylan; how cultural materialism might proceed; do we need to try to define a set of human universals or not?; and the current state of play in Shakespeare studies and the importance of â€˜thinking deep, thinking hardâ€™.
Neema interviews Professor Brian Boyd, one of the world’s leading experts on literature and evolution. Topics include: the antifoundationalism of Karl Popper; criticisms of new historicism and cultural materialism; human nature, universals and literature; dominance and counter-dominance, self-interest and altruism; mate choice or romantic love;Â why do we make up stories?; David Bordwell and presentism.
This week Neema is joined by Professor Hugh Grady, one of the figures at the forefront of the movement in Shakespeare studies known as ‘presentism’. Topics include: the influence of deconstruction on new historicism and cultural materialism; Stephen Greenblatt’s relationship with Marxist theory; the different receptions of Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault in America and Britain; Fredric Jameson; the importance of subjectivity to Shakespeare criticism; Jacques Lacan; and presentism and politics.
Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory #4: Marcus Nordlund
Neema interviews Marcus Nordlund, author of Shakespeare and the Nature of Love. Topics include: false dichotomies, straw men and the academic market place; can you talk about Shakespeare’s characters as if they are real people?; the validity of Jacques Lacan’s theories; the importance of developing a ‘biocultural’ view when reading literature; and Shakespeare’s perspectivism.
Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory #5: John Drakakis
Neema is joined by Professor John Drakakis. In this episode: the professionalisation of the discipline and its impact on scholarship; what was ‘new’ about new historicism?; understanding the roots of cultural materialism and its differences from new historicism; differences between left-wing criticism at Sussex and at Cardiff;Â influences beyond Althusser and Foucault: Antonio Gramsci, Raymond Williams, Fredric Jameson, Pierre Macherey; the British New Left; the old liberal humanists: Edward Pechter, Richard Levin and Graham Bradshaw; did Shakespeare have ‘a mind which could think otherwise’?; base and superstructure; and the current state of play.
Neema interviews the founder of a movement known as ‘Literary Darwinism’, Professor Joseph Carroll. Topics include: the resistance of the academic status quo to evolutionary theory; Matthew Arnold and the value of literary study; poststructualism vs. biologically-informed psychology and anthropology in the mainstream public;Â why is the question of nature and nurture important to us as readers of literature?; graphing Jane Austen and using empirical methods in literary criticism.
Neema is joined by Professor Lisa Hopkins to discuss, among other things: feminism; A.P. Rossiter and Shakespeare’s ambivalence; the ‘post-theory’ moment; subjectivity, contradiction and the coexistence of two competing ideas at the same time; women in The Hobbit; breastfeeding, nature and nurture; Victorian uses of Darwinian theory; did Shakespeare have a mind which could think otherwise, or did he share something with his contemporaries?; the question of aesthetic value; and economic necessity as a driver of criticism.
Neema interviews Dr Andy Mousley, a leading advocate of ‘literary humanism’. Topics include: F.R. Leavis; Edward Pechter’s critique of new historicism; the death of the aesthetic; ‘residual humanism’; teacup handles and the difference between traditional history and cultural history; emotions and literature; cathexis; and the distinctiveness of literature.
Neema talks with Professor Gabriel Egan, author of Shakespeare and Marx, Green Shakespeare and The Search for Shakespeare’s Text. Topics include: criticisms of Foucault’s concept of power; the importance of class; Greenblatt’s use of Clifford Geertz; how the economics of the early modern theatre industry worked; Charles Darwin and Karl Marx; theory vs. science; how do we know what Shakespeare wrote?; issues in editing Shakespeare; Pierre Macherey; D.F. McKenzie; E.M.W. Tillyard; and E.K. Chambers.
Neema interviews Professor Steven Mullaney. Topics include: Vietnam, May 68 and the civil rights movement; what footprint did either deconstruction or Derrida leave on Shakespeare studies?; the distinction between new historicism and cultural poetics; Foucault’s ‘spatial’ thinking; Marxism in America; is new historicism ‘textualist’ in the way it ‘reads’ culture?; Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory; Louis Montrose on E.M.W. Tillyard; universalists vs. constructionists; the idea of ‘nature and nurture’ vs. Judith Butler’s theory of gender-as-performance; and animal studies.
Neema interviews Dr David Alderson. In this episode: the influence of new historicism, cultural materialism and Raymond Williams beyond Shakespeare studies; Althusser, Foucault and subjectivity; base and superstructure; ‘neo-liberal hegemony’ and the current uses of Marxist criticism; is capitalism progressive?; Marxism and humanism; the ‘diversified dominant’ and the commodification of individualised freedom; Norman Geras vs. biological accounts of human nature; and how do we explain desire?
Neema interviews Dr. Henry S. Turner. Topics include: post-historicism?; does Marx’s notion of commodity fetishism still have value?; Pierre Bourdieu; The Politics of Truth by Michele Barret; the importance of Roland Barthes; literary theory and the sciences; Jonathan Kramnick’s assessment of Literary Darwinism; mimesis; Shakespeare’s theatrical ‘word cloud’; rethinking the concept of unity; and Madeline Doran’s Endevors and Art.
Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory #13: Harold Veeser
Neema speaks with Professor Harold Veeser. In this episode: experiences of studying under Edward Said; the birth of the theory journal; how new historicism collapsed traditional divisions between historical scholarship and criticism; the movement for ‘professionalism’ in the US academy in the 1980s; the development of Marxist theory in America; Greenblatt’s concept of salutary anxiety and arbitrary connectedness; the history of ideas vs. human experience and how new historicism differs from the older historicism represented by E.M.W. Tillyard; thoughts on evolutionary criticism; and new historicism and academic distance.
Neema interviews Professor Andrew Hadfield. Topics include: cultural materialism vs. practical criticism; comparing Dollimore and Sinfield with F.R. Leavis; has historicism come too far or should we return to form?; considering aesthetic value and judgements; Adorno and The Frankfurt School; questions of the literary canon; and Shakespeare’s politics.
Neema talks to Professor Jonathan Kramnick about his critique of literary Darwinism, aesthetic value judgements,Â and much more.
Neema interviews the feminist philosopher Professor Alison Assiter about feminism, universalism, cultural relativism, Kierkegaard, women in academia, and many other topics.
Neema interviews Professor Ros King about the perceived dichotomy between presentism and historicism, the importance of dramaturgy, Elizabethan war manuals, ways of playing Ophelia in Hamlet, why the Scrivener is the most important character in Richard III and more.
Was Shakespeare really William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, or was he, in fact, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford? Neema interviews Professor Michael Egan, editor of The Oxfordian, about this question to help you make up your own mind …