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Stephen Greenblatt, Part 1 Of 2

series: Drexel Interview

air date: 5/23/13 11:00 AM

Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and winner of the 2011 National Book Award for non-fiction, is one of the world's foremost literary scholars and critics. He is credited with inventing the literary methodology known as The New Historicism. He is also the author of two bestselling works of literary history, the 2004 Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and the 2011 The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, the work for which he received the National Book Award. In this, the first of a two-part interview, Greenblatt discusses his life and scholarly career. He describes himself as a bookish youth and speaks of his mother's constant fear of death and his father's Falstaffian humor. Greenblatt notes that his undergraduate experience at Yale, while intellectually enriching, was marred by an experience with anti-Semitism. He explains that the New Historicism opens a new window on literary criticism, allowing readers to bring material from the author's culture to bear on an understanding of a literary work. The methodology, he explains, arose as a reaction to the New Criticism, which focused solely on the internal structure of literature. Greenblatt notes that not all scholars agree with his approach, and he genially defends himself against his critics.

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