[UCP Books]: The Great William: Writers Reading Shakespeare

“Leinwand’s book is first-rate, a pleasure to read, and one of the smartest and most engaging studies to have crossed my desk in a very long time. It is also rich in archival discoveries, steeped in biographical insight, and deeply knowledgeable about the ways in which great writers have read and responded to Shakespeare.”–James Shapiro, author of The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606



Writers Reading Shakespeare
By Theodore Leinwand


Publication date: May 17, 2016 Cloth   $35.00 / £24.50
International Publication Date: June 13, 2016 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-36755-2

The Great William is the first book to explore how seven renowned writers—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes—wrestled with Shakespeare in the very moments when they were reading his work. What emerges is a constellation of remarkable intellectual and emotional encounters.

Theodore Leinwand builds impressively detailed accounts of these writers’ experiences through their marginalia, lectures, letters, journals, and reading notes. We learn why Woolf associated reading Shakespeare with her brother Thoby, and what Ginsberg meant when referring to the mouth feel of Shakespeare’s verse. From Hughes’s attempts to find a “skeleton key” to all of Shakespeare’s plays to Berryman’s tormented efforts to edit King Lear, Leinwand reveals the palpable energy and conviction with which these seven writers engaged with Shakespeare, their moments of utter self-confidence and profound vexation. In uncovering these intense public and private reactions, The Great William connects major writers’ hitherto unremarked scenes of reading Shakespeare with our own.


Theodore Leinwand is professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author of The City Staged and Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England, as well as a consulting editor for Shakespeare Quarterly.



Please contact Rose Rittenhouse at (773) 702-0376 or rittenhouse@uchicago.edu for more information.


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