Henry S. Turner

research, publications, teaching

Ongoing and Upcoming

With Jane Hwang Degenhardt (UMass, Amherst), I am currently co-writing a book on the concept of the “world” in Shakespeare’s theater tentatively entitled The Shakespearean Horizon: Worlds Upon Worlds in the Renaissance and Today. Rather than approach the early modern period as the origin point for globalization or as a source for humanist cosmopolitanism and pre-Enlightenment worldviews, The Shakespearean Horizon reclaims the radical roots of a period that twists the epistemological and ontological settlements of modernity and that might seed our own speculative world-making. By addressing how Shakespeare’s plays invoke multiple worlds simultaneously—the worlds of the human and the inhuman; the natural, supernatural, and artificial; the sacred and the secular; the past and the present; the physical and the metaphysical—the book aims to provide an alternative to accounts of the singularity and knowability of the world usually associated with Renaissance humanism, with the Cartesian cogito, or with the scientific revolution. What makes a world, and by whose terms is a world defined? How do we account for worlds that lie beyond the capacities of human beings to comprehend? How do exclusion or negation create worlds? What happens when worlds collide: do they create crises, open pathways to new knowledge, provoke repression, or evoke transformation? By tracking several key concepts across Shakespeare’s plays—”horizon,” “experience,” “kind,” “art,” “cosmology,” among others —the book embraces Shakespeare’s invitation to glimpse beyond our present world, developing new cosmological imaginations, new political dispositions, and new ways of confronting the world-making tasks ahead of us.

Two essays from the book have recently appeared or are forthcoming: Jane Hwang Degenhardt and Henry S. Turner, “Between Worlds in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors,Exemplaria 33.2 (2021): 158-83 discusses how conceptions of experience, enworlding, and the Mediterranean region inform Shakespeare’s response to early modern globalization and its racializing tendencies. Henry S. Turner, “Worlds of Experience: Fiction in Sidney and Shakespeare,” forthcoming in a special issue of SEL: Studies in English Literature on “World, Globe, Planet,” 62.1 (Winter 2022), examines how Sidney and Shakespeare understood the ontology of fictional world-making, the nature of images, the relationship of art to experience, and the capacity of fiction to estrange us from the world so that we can imagine new ecological and political dispositions for it.

I recently spoke at the Renaissance Society of America conference in Dublin, Ireland, about changing ideas of experience, aesthetics, and cosmology in Renaissance occasional entertainments and The Tempest and will be speaking about Shakespeare’s “wild cosmologies” on a panel at the 2023 Shakespeare Association of America that I organized with Jane Hwang Degenhardt (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Wendy Hyman (Oberlin College) on “The Early Modern Multiverse.”

Thinking about applying to graduate school in English Literature? You really need to look at Rutgers. At a moment when many programs are scaling back funding and pushing five year degrees, Rutgers guarantees six full years of funding for all our admitted students, a package that includes three full years of fellowship (in the first, fifth, and sixth years, with opportunities for more). Plus mentored teaching, superb faculty across all historical periods, fantastic, happy graduate students, and distinguished alumni. The result? One of the best PhD placement records in the country.

Thinking about applying to graduate school in Renaissance / Early Modern? You really need to look at Rutgers! It’s one of the strongest areas of a strong department, with six full-time tenured faculty who cover the entire period comprehensively, from the late 15th century to the Restoration. Four Shakespeareans, two Miltonists, a Spenserian, two Baconians, and two Jonson specialists, working on many different areas of early modern letters and culture: Spenser, pastoral, women’s writing, 16th and 17th century lyric, literature and the English Revolution, humanism, the Bible and the Reformation, book history and the history of reading, race, Islam and postcolonial theory, feminism, theater and performance, literature and science, hermeticism, theories of fiction and poetics, law and literature, intellectual history, theory and philosophy, and political thought. Browse the faculty pages to get a sense of our current work.

Congratulations to Nicole Sheriko (English Department, Yale University), whose 2021 PhD from Rutgers English, “Imitating Difference: Renaissance Entertainment Culture and the Ethics of Popular Form,” was awarded the 2022 J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize from the Shakespeare Association of America. Nicole joins Debapriya Sarkar (English Department, University of Connecticut, Avery Point; 2015 SAA winner), Chris Crosbie (NC State; Rutgers 2008; 2009 SAA winner) and Scott Trudell (Univ. of Maryland; Rutgers 2012; 2012 SAA Honorable Mention) as the fourth Rutgers student to be recognized by the SAA’s annual Dissertation Award.

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