Periodization and Hamlet in 2000 (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 2000 semester seminar led by Margreta de Grazia.

The seminar began with a discussion of general issues of periodization. Why is it necessary? How arbitrary is it? By what principles are periods organized? How do they affect editorial and critical practices? The seminar then moved on to consider the nineteenth-century construction of the Renaissance and Early Modern. What does it mean that we use these two antithetical designations for the same historical stretch, the first suggesting a circular recovery of the past and the second a linear (and teleological) anticipation of the future? Our next project was to explore how Hamlet for the past two centuries has been identified with the onset of an ever-receding modern period. On the basis of readings from Coleridge, Hegel, Freud, Benjamin, Deleuze, Lacan, and Derrida, participants traced how definitions of the modern (and even of the postmodern) continually change but consistently turn to Hamlet as their inaugural figure. Finally, the seminar looked at Shakespeare's Hamlet--in the 1603/1604 and 1623 texts-with the purpose of identifying its own modes of temporal inscription: generational, imperial, constitutional, eschatological, and astrological.

Director: Margreta de Grazia is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to numerous articles, her works include Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture (1996), coedited with Maureen Quilligan and Peter Stallybrass, and Shakespeare Verbatim: the Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus (1991).