The critics rave about Shakespeare, Politics, and Italy

27 08 2011

It has been 2 years now since my book Shakespeare, Politics, and Italy: Intertextuality on the Jacobean Stage came out and, after the usual time delay of academic book reviews, the response has been enthusiastic and encouraging. In the meantime, I have been busy working on a new volume about Shakespeare and enjoying the pleasures of life in Italy. Now I am just hoping that the speed-challenged builders finish our new house (a year late) so I do not have to write this next book on the kitchen table as well.

Here are some selections from the reviews:

“Michael Redmond not only approaches this inexhaustible subject from a new perspective and uncovers the kind of creative uses of Italy that his predeces­sors have not addressed, but he also employs a different critical method in his examinations. …  Now that New Historicism has been relegated to an archive of critical methodologies, critics can breathe with relief and pursue the most important of early modern principles of compos­ition, imitation, creatively and imaginatively, as Redmond forcefully exem­plifies. After a detailed Introduction (1–27), ‘The Politics of Intertextuality’, which offers an explanation of the use of intertext in contradistinction to the old study of sources — a shift which actually reveals a much more extensive presence of the source in the recipient body of texts — the reader will find four chapters devoted to specific instances of this kind of intertextuality. … The politico-cultural and historical material brought in to frame the argument shows that this is a book written by a spe­cialist in Renaissance literature who is also a cultural comparatist and whose linguistic ability allows him to access Italian sources and thus expand the possibilities of criticism and produce original arguments. … Each chapter of this important book is carefully executed and ends with a succinct conclusion, which eases reading. Redmond fully achieves the goal of redefining what source studies can mean at the present critical moment, giving us a thorough, convincing, and original way of reading transnational cultural contacts. The wealth of new material he uses to frame the transpos­ition of Italy to England not only expands the body of criticism on this topic in a significant way, but also offers new ways of thinking about the significa­tion of Italy in early modern drama, as well as about new critical possibil­ities afforded by that signification. The style of Redmond’s book is engaging throughout and free from the weight of theoretical jargon. Discreetly and effectively, he manages to turn theory into a new reading practice and critical methodology. … Apart from proposing a number of connections that have remained unaccounted for until now, Redmond’s book will likely have a long shelf life not only because of its perceptive literary analyses but also because it adds another dimension to our knowledge of the humanism that lies behind early modern drama, specifically in the circulation of texts, books, and knowledge between England and Italy.”  Early Theatre

“Michael Redmond’s impressive new book forms part of the recent resurgence of critical interest in Shakespeare’s rich relationship with Italian literature and intellectual culture. … Redmond suggests that “early modern intertextuality was a dynamic process of allusion, quotation and revision” (2), and one of the strongest elements of the book is his willingness to attribute an understanding of this process not only to early modern English dramatists but also to the theater’s audiences as well. … the book is an innovative, interesting, and worthy addition to recent scholarship on Shakespeare’s dramatic engagement with Italian materials, and indeed one that offers a far broader and richer analysis of English attitudes toward Italy and its political culture in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries than its title leads us to anticipate.” Comparative Drama

“In its analysis of Italian political philosophy and its circulation, the book stands as a complement to recent scholarly work on Shakespeare’s history plays and ideologies of power. … it is one of the strengths of this book that it establishes a new agenda for this kind of debate. The book’s real substance is not in allusion-spotting but in probing cultural attitudes and the politics of nationhood. As such, it will be regarded as a significant contribution to the fast-growing area of Anglo-Italian Renaissance literary studies.” Renaissance Quarterly

“Michael Redmond’s book refreshingly gives a view of Shakespeare’s works from a cross-or trans-national perspective.  … The force of his observations can be stunning…” College Literature

“The author is convincing in making his case that Shakespeare is too often studied in isolation from his fellow English dramatists and writers. Bringing into his discussion works by Ben Jonson, John Marston, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Nashe, Thomas Coryate, Barnabe Barnes, Roger Ascham, and others, Redmond focuses on how these writers experienced Italy through books about and from Italy. In sharp readings, he considers what this reveals about hopes and fears regarding the uniqueness of English culture and statehood. …Recommended.” Choice

“Redmond’s book adds to the discussion in a memorable way … His footnotes are rich, and his eru­dition is real.” Seventeenth-Century News

“In Shakespeare, Politics, and Italy: Intertextuality on the Jacobean Stage, Michael J. Redmond moves beyond the confines of Rome to uncover the pervasiveness and significance on the early modern stage of references to Italian texts. … the book makes important intertextual connections.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900