Jonathan Gil Harris

This page reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.

Long-term fellowship

"Shakespeare and Literary Theory" (NEH, 2008–2009)

Shakespeare and Literary Theory will consider the four-centuries-long relation between Shakespeare and theories of literary production and critical analysis. I plan to draw on two archives that uniquely exist alongside one another at the Folger: early modern materials by, on, and about Shakespeare; and theories of literature and criticism from 1800 to the present. Shakespeare and Literary Theory will not seek to apply theory to Shakespeare. Rather, it will tease out the ways in which modern theory has always been “Shakespearean” and Shakespeare’s writing had always been “theoretical.” The symbiotic relation between Shakespeare and theory is readily apparent in a wide spectrum of modern critical methods. But it is apparent also in early modern texts that comment on Shakespeare to advance “theoretical” understandings of genre (Meres), literary taste (the Parnassus plays), national poetry (Jonson), prosopopeia (Milton), dramatic character (Margaret Cavendish), and material properties (Rymer). By narrating this symbiotic history, “Shakespeare and Literary Theory” will argue for a comprehensive demystification of “theory.” The term derives from the Greek theorein, which signifies “looking at,” “contemplation,” “speculation,” “viewing.” All these definitions characterize the ways in which we apprehend Shakespeare. When we engage Shakespeare, therefore, we enter into theory. Theory need no longer be seen as some exotic and vaguely totalitarian land that treats its rare visitors with disdain. Rather, it is a land we already inhabit, not least when we think about and view Shakespeare.

See the resulting publication:

Harris, Jonathan Gil. Shakespeare and Literary Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. PR2965 .H37 2010

Scholarly Programs

Speaker, Early Modern Terrorism? The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 & its Aftermath (Workshop, 2005–2006)