Shakespeare in American Education, 1607–1934 (conference)

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NEH Conference Grant

Center for Shakespeare Studies

Spring 2007

Keywords: History, Literature, American, History of Education, Shakespeare, Teaching, Reception

Website (Archived)

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

This was a spring conference held from March 16 to March 17, 2007. The conference was designated as a "We the People" project by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, W.W. Norton & Company, and Simon & Schuster, Inc. are corporate sponsors. The conference was organized by Theodore Leinwand (University of Maryland), Kathleen Lynch (Folger Institute), and Barbara A. Mowat (Folger Institute). Speakers included Denise Albanese (George Mason University), Jonathan Burton (West Virginia University), Sandra Gustafson (University of Notre Dame), Dayton Haskin (Professor of English, Boston College), Nan Johnson (The Ohio State University), Coppélia Kahn (Brown University), Rosemary Kegl (University of Rochester), Marvin McAllister (Howard University), Jennifer Mylander (Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Heather S. Nathans (University of Maryland), Peggy O’Brien (Corporation for Public Broadcasting), and Elizabeth Renker (The Ohio State University). Commentators: Arthur Applebee (University at Albany, SUNY), Michael Bristol (McGill University), John Guillory (New York University), and Michael Warner (Rutgers University).

Under what conditions did Shakespeare’s plays become an integral component of America’s cultural literacy, its moral education, its civic formation? At what levels of instruction, for what socio-economic classes and ethnic groups, and playing what roles in American political, military, or social histories? What exemplary “Shakespeares” have American classrooms created, for what purposes, and at what cross-purposes? With what kinds of records may scholars tell what kinds of histories of the teaching of Shakespeare? This conference addressed resonant episodes in the teaching of Shakespeare in America. It brought scholars of English and American cultures and literatures into productive conversation with historians of rhetoric and education. Fresh case studies were drawn from the earliest relevant archival discoveries through the first third of the twentieth century. Among other topics, individual papers investigated shifting emphases in the Shakespearean canon, the impact of college entrance requirements on classroom instruction, and (what was deemed to be) historically accurate staging for productions at the Chicago World’s Fair, with the subsequent distribution of abbreviated school texts. A roundtable discussion with the commentators probed the place of this new work in our intellectual heritage and discursive traditions.


Kahn, Coppélia, Heather S Nathans, and Mimi Godfrey. Shakespearean Educations : Power, Citizenship, and Performance. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011. PR2987 .S73 2011