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Elizabeth Jane Rivlin
Clemson University (Clemson, SC 29634-0001)
Shakespeare and the American Middlebrow: Reading Publics, 1878-Present

Research and writing a history of how American individuals and organizations have engaged the plays of William Shakespeare since the late 19th century.

The premise of this book is that middlebrow institutions have led the way in disseminating Shakespeare to an expanding American reading public. Gaining momentum after the Civil War and continuing to the present day, reading programs and publishing initiatives have presented Shakespeare to American readerships, operating on the principle that reading Shakespeare can both catalyze and confirm self-improvement and cultural privilege. My thesis is that such middlebrow institutions have served as sites where the boundaries of the American public have been contested and where demands for fuller public participation by marginalized groups have repeatedly been tested. The first three chapters focus on programs that shaped the reading public around Shakespeare. The last two chapters suggest that Shakespeare’s reading public now emphasizes some of the same constituents it once excluded, demonstrating that Shakespeare’s uses are changing even as he remains a vehicle for American aspirations.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
American Studies; British Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2020 – 6/30/2020