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Shakespeare in Theory: The Postmodern Academy and the Early Modern Theater offers a provocative, highly original premise: that present-day literary criticism and theory have been shaped by the same institutional forces that shaped the theater of Shakespeare's day. Stephen Bretzius argues that Shakespeare's poetry and drama have been central to the development of postwar literary and cultural criticism, not just because his works validate these various critical approaches, but because the approaches variously replay his works, from the theater of the Renaissance to the contemporary American university. Where early modern theater once usurped the university, the postmodern university now refashions the theater, recasting in a theoretical register the same disappearing subjects, ideological contradictions, and imperialist illusions that it uncovers in Shakespeare.
Individual chapters provide provocative interpretations of various postwar critical schools and Shakespearean dramas, including the New Historicism and Hamlet, feminism and The Taming of the Shrew, pragmatism and Henry V. Other approaches, including psychoanalysis, multiculturalism, feminism, deconstruction, and nuclear criticism are brought to bear on Love's Labor Lost, Julius Caesar, and Othello. A final chapter on Shakespeare and the Beatles provides a lively conclusion to an imaginative and thought-provoking volume.
Stephen Bretzius is Lecturer, Chaffey College.