The Literary Genius of Shakespeare

Seth Lerer
Seth Lerer
University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language– most recently on Children’s Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. Among his many publications, he has written the books Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past, Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage, and Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language.

Overview

Shakespeare’s Genius

More than four centuries after his death, Shakespeare continues to allure, to challenge, and to teach. Each year, new books and new productions testify to the endurance of his plays and poetry. What makes William Shakespeare, in the words of his contemporary Ben Jonson, “not for an age, but for all time”? We will explore the range of Shakespeare’s work to see how he awes and teaches us today. This lecture focuses on three important questions, both for his time and ours: What is the place of art in the exercise of political rule? How do our families make and unmake us? Is there a character inside of us, or are we all performers on life’s stage? All of Shakespeare’s works address these questions in some way.

What Makes Shakespeare So Great

This lecture will focus on a couple of the great tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear), a great comedy (Midsummer Night’s Dream), and a range of Sonnets. It will explore the ways in which we may see his work newly on the stage, but also how we can read it privately – and how both media of acting and printing shaped his work from its very beginning.

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