David Schalkwyk

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

Long-term fellowship

"Humanism and Love’s Transgression in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries" (Mellon, 2008–2009)

Very little has been written about love and the English Renaissance in the past three decades, though much has been said about desire. A key term in recent theories of subjectivity, “desire” has been thought to constitute a more highly theorized, and therefore a descriptively and analytically keener, tool for those who wish to explore sexual relationships in terms, above all, of relations of power. The aversion to love in recent critical theory and practice is a symptom of a pervasive and long-standing antagonism to humanism. Critics and theorists have allowed their political aversion to humanism to blind them to humanist ideas as a radical shaping force in the early modern period. This project therefore seeks to recover what has been overlooked by the theoretical antagonism to humanism and the concomitant revulsion from the word “love.” I argue that rather than returning Shakespeare’s texts to their historical situation, the new theory predicated upon “desire” misses something crucial about the ways in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries might have understood and used the word “love” within a growing context of radical humanist thought and value. My project seeks to recover the historical forces of humanism in English Renaissance texts, while retaining the new historicist and materialist concern with shaping public and social forces. I want to trace, in both the literary and non-literary writing of the period, ways in which a humanist valuation of the finality of the specific human being loved might have been regarded as socially and politically transgressive rather than, as is usually thought, complicit in conservative models of social repression and exploitation.

Scholarly Programs

Organizer, Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography (Conference, 2013–2014)

Plenary Chair, Early Modern Translation: Theory, History, Practice (Conference, 2010–2011)

Public Programs

Lecture, David Schalkwyk and actors from Taffety Punk: Readings from The Roaring Girl, July 30, 2012.


Director of Research at the Folger, 2009–2013.