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Shakespeare after All

September-October 2004

When Kenan professor of English and American literature and language Marjorie Garber taught Shakespeare to Harvard graduates at an "Alumni College" several years ago, the course was so popular that it had to be repeated. Garber, says Stephen Greenblatt, is one of a group of Harvard scholars—including Helen Vendler, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Elaine Scarry, and Louis Menand [not to mention Greenblatt himself]—who are "trying to repair the gap between the world of things that are read in classrooms and assigned in universities and things that are read by people who just love life and literature and who don't read only because they are assigned it." Readers, theatergoers, and even students who want the "pentimento, the underpainting" of what they should know about Shakespeare either in performance or in print will appreciate Garber's lucid companion to the plays, Shakespeare after All (forthcoming from Pantheon this December). It is, as she says, "an old-fashioned kind of book about Shakespeare." But only in its form. Drawing on the Harvard lecture course she taught from 1981 to 2003, Garber brings contemporary trends in criticism and theory, including new historical, philosophical, and cultural work, to a close reading of the plays that is a fine complement to Greenblatt's biographical genealogy of the playwright's works.