From time to time, we have sad news to share of the death of a member of the Folger’s scholarly community. Such news often spurs reminiscences of a person’s professional productivity and influence—and ideally, of their collegiality and even generosity. In my thirty years’ association with the Folger Institute, we have not had an occasion to express gratitude for so many foundational contributions to Shakespeare studies and the work of the Folger Institute as we have in remembering J. Leeds Barroll III.
Leeds’s association with the Folger Shakespeare Library extended for more than fifty years, from his first registration as a reader with a brand-new Ph.D. from Princeton to his post-retirement perch as a distinguished scholar-in-residence. Leeds directed and contributed to just about every kind of program the Institute offered. From NEH Institutes to Birthday Lectures to conferences and guest spots in any number of seminars, Leeds was a model of a curious, mentoring, challenging, influential intellect. That was nowhere as evident as in his direction of the Institute’s dissertation seminar for a decade. The dissertation seminar was created by Lena Cowen Orlin, then Executive Director of the Folger Institute. Lena’s canny shaping of an opportunity for dissertation writers was equal parts research funding, works-in-progress reading group, and establishment of a cohort of supportive early career scholars. Lena knew how rare and valuable such a model would be. She also knew that she could tap on Leeds Barroll’s legendary vision and generosity and inclusiveness to make the seminar the launching pad and welcome into a wider professional community that it is at its best.
Other faculty have carried on that work, and they have done so with inspiration and creativity and always with an eye to mentoring the research of emerging scholars. We are grateful to them all. But we recognize that in this, as in so many things, Leeds led the way. The scope of Leeds’s leadership in Shakespeare Studies as we know them today is indicated in a broad sweep of organizations and journals he founded, including the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) to Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England (MaRDiE).
It was my enormous privilege to work closely with Leeds on one of the last programs he organized for the Institute, a 2002 conference that we informally called “Ottomans and Others.” Here, Leeds was taking on the challenges of entering a new field himself and doing the research to set a productive approach to the question. From the start, Leeds urged us to go beyond a one-sided presentation of western views of the Ottoman empire, but to find the generative questions and the points of intervention that would truly engage colleagues in the field of Ottoman Studies and make this a conference from which we would all learn. Then, as in so many conversations with Leeds, I got a master class in conceptualizing and framing out a scholarly conversation that is worth having. Our programs in the Institute are always products of engaged conversation across fields and intellectual perspectives. Leeds Barroll worked that into our DNA from the start. He also did more than anyone else in the field of Shakespeare studies to build the scholarly communities of which we are so proud at the Institute. His example shines, even as we look to the opportunities and responsibilities before us today.
Kathleen Lynch, Executive Director, Folger Institute, May 2022.
Read more tributes:
J. Leeds Barroll III: A Tribute - Ann Jennalie Cook, in Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England
Leeds Barroll as Colleague and Teacher - Raphael Falco, in Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England
Leeds Barroll, Scholar-in-Residence - Richard Kuhta, in Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England
The following information reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.
Named Scholar in Residence, 2005
Co-organizer (with Kathleen Lynch), The Impact of the Ottoman Empire on Early Modern Europe: From 1453 to the Death of Ahmed I (Conference, 2001–2002)
Speaker, Court and Culture During the Reign of Elizabeth I: The Last Decade (Workshop, 1991–1992)
Director, The Problem of an Intellectual History for Shakespeare's Age (Summer Institute, 1989)
Director, Shakespeare and the Social Pressures of his Time (Seminar, 1985)
Director, Shakespeare's Milieu (Seminar, 1981)
Director, The Structure of Shakespearean Tragedy (Seminar, 1980)
Lecture, "The First Stuart Entertainment, June 1603" (Spring 1990)
Lecture, "Countesses and Power in the Politics of Drama and Court Show after the Accession of James I" (Fall 1986)