The Literary Horizon: Shakespeare and Modern Culture, The Lunatic, The Lover, and the Poet

Shakespeare’s been popping up on my radar recently- why not devote a Literary Horizon to the great man himself?

Shakespeare and Modern Culture by Marjorie Garber

From one of the world’s premier Shakespeare scholars, author of Shakespeare After All (“the indispensable introduction to the indispensable writer”–Newsweek): a magisterial new study whose premise is “that Shakespeare makes modern culture and that modern culture makes Shakespeare.”

Shakespeare has determined many of the ideas that we think of as “naturally” our own and even as “naturally” true–ideas about human character, individuality and selfhood, government, leadership, love and jealousy, men and women, youth and age. Yet many of these ideas, timely as ever, have been reimagined–are indeed often now first encountered–not only in modern fiction, theater, film, and the news but also in the literature of psychology, sociology, political theory, business, medicine, and law.

Marjorie Garber delves into ten plays to explore the interrelationships between Shakespeare and twentieth century and contemporary culture–from James Joyce’s Ulysses to George W. Bush’s reading list. In The Merchant of Venice, she looks at the question of intention; in Hamlet, the matter of character; in King Lear, the dream of sublimity; in Othello, the persistence of difference; and in Macbeth, the necessity of interpretation. She discusses the conundrum of man in The Tempest; the quest for exemplarity in Henry V; the problem of fact in Richard III; the estrangement of self in Coriolanus; and the untimeliness of youth in Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare and Modern Culture is a tour de force reimagining of our own mental and emotional landscape as refracted through the prism of protean “Shakespeare.”

via Amazon

I don’t think I quite have a complete handle on how much Shakespeare changed literature and theater. Of course, I know of the many words Shakespeare gave to the English language, but there’s so much more. Shakespeare and Modern Culture sets out to explain Shakespeare in the context of modern culture, and modern culture in the context of Shakespeare, which can feel like a bit of a paradox at first. But I find the idea that Shakespeare’s timelessness is constantly connected to new themes and ideas as they take hold in popular culture fascinating.

Isherwood of The New York Times finds Shakespeare and Modern Culture to deliver what it sets out to, although it can strain itself (connecting Shakespeare to business advice books? Really?). The review gives me faith that the book will give me what I came for–a better appreciation of Shakespeare and how Shakespeare is interpreted in the modern world.

The paperback edition of Shakespeare and Modern Culture was released on November 30.

The Lunatic, The Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes

A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully believing in any philosophy. That is, until he meets the outrageous, provocative, and flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both Earth and Heaven than any of his books. But Hamlet is also irrationally haunted by intimations of a tragic destiny he believes is preordained.

When a freelance translation job turns into a full-scale theatrical production, Horatio arranges for the theater-loving prince to act in the play-disguised as the heroine! This attracts the attention of Horatio′s patroness, the dark and manipulative Lady Adriana. A voracious and astute reader of both books and people, she performs her own seductions to test whether the “platonic true-love” described in his poems is truly so platonic. But when a mysterious rival poet calling himself “Will Shake-speare” begins to court both Prince Hamlet and his Dark Lady, Horatio is forced to choose between his skepticism and his love.

Laced with quotes, references, and in-jokes, cross-dressing, bed-tricks, mistaken identity, and a bisexual love-triangle inspired by Shakespeare′s own sonnets, this novel upends everything you thought you knew about Hamlet. Witty, insightful, playful, and truly wise about the greatest works of the Bard, THE LUNATIC, THE LOVER, AND THE POET is a delectable treat for people that have loved books like Stephen Greenblatt′s WILL IN THE WORLD and John Updike′s GERTRUDE AND CLAUDIUS.

via HarperCollins

Queer reimaginings of standing works is nothing new to geeks (fandom itself was founded by lady Trekkies besotted with the idea of Kirk and Spock in love, as the story goes), but when one of those reimaginings actually gets published, I sit up and take notice. The idea of taking Hamlet and providing a back story with all the best trappings of Twelfth Night, along with a dollop of metafiction with the introduction of Shakespeare himself? Most intriguing.

The Publishers Weekly review dismisses it as a colorful, if self-conscious, piece of fluff, with no bearing on Hamlet. The Portland Monthly Magazine, however, is absolutely glowing, considering it a light and delightful romp from Horatio’s perspective. I think it’ll deliver. Anyway, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern make cameo appearances, and my love for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead almost obligates me to read it.

The Lunatic, The Lover, and the Poet will be released on January 26.

I’m thinking of switching out the recent release for a book, despite its release date, that’s come up on my radar. I stumble across mystery series a lot, but I want to start from the beginning! I will include recent releases that have caught my eye, but I’d prefer to have two books that relate to each other featured each week instead of forcing my own head. Savvy?

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