A New Book for a New Year

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In the last century, Stephen Greenblatt’s contribution to literary theory is perhaps second only to Derrida. Though now increasingly out of fashion, his theory of the New Historicism — shrouded in the most highfalutin of literary theoretical jargon — permitted scholars, for the first time, to read historical documents in the same way as a literary text, and vice versa.

A failed attempt to try his hand in textual editing — which (anti)-climaxed in his co-general-editorship of the Norton Shakespeare — led Greenblatt back to the place in the literary world where he belongs. Will in the World, though primarily an exercise in reading Shakespeare’s plays and poems biographically, proved to be an international bestseller. And now, just two weeks ago, the University of Chicago Press released his latest monograph, Shakespeare’s Freedom.

A particular feature of Greenblatt’s writing that I admire is his ability to weave quotation and the most thoughtful and thought-provoking textual commentary into a seamless argumentative narrative. With the most relative of ease, Greenblatt, in Shakespeare’s Freedom, reminds us that Shakespeare lived in a world of authority and absolutes that he consistently defied through his writing of the plays and poems. It is a veritable tour of the canon, picking up on the ways in which Shakespeare ‘confounds the designs and pretensions of kings, generals, and churchmen’. Such a book could not have been undertaken by anyone with less mental dexterity and precision than Stephen Greenblatt.

Shakespeare’s Freedom is a handsome hardback on sale in the Shakespeare Bookshop for £15.50, and in keeping with the Early Modern tradition of gift-giving on New Year’s Day, it is not too late to purchase a copy for that lover of Shakespeare in your life!

Download a free book written by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells about Shakespeare, Conspiracy & Authorship. Download the Book.


24 brilliant poems, inspired by Shakespeare's life and art, bound in an artisan stitched chapbook

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