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We encounter some hazy definitions in this treatment. What is spiritual; what is material? Moreover, many of the themes found wanting are in fact famously treated by historians (as opposed to historical literary critics); one thinks of the work of Keith Thomas, Lyndal Roper, and Margaret Aston, to name just a very few. But, not to be cowed, the introduction to Spiritual Shakespeares goes on to claim that far from the need to work in a historical paradigm, the book would avow a decidedly “presentist” perspective, regarding Shakespeare’s text as, if not a new Bible, then a new St. Augustine, teaching spiritual reinvigoration for our moment. History and materialism is by implication wrong or misguided, and worse, in its quest for answers in the nature of explaining historical causation, as dry as dust. Spiritual Shakespeares will instead make us new and whole again, and will save the study of Renaissance literature for a bright future.

Those who practice one form or other of the historical study of literature might have felt arrested sharply in their tracks, if not also scared about the possibility of their continued existence as they knew it, by the appearance of a volume of essays in 2005 called Spiritual Shakespeares. The volume promised to deal a deathblow to materialist approaches to the interpretation of Shakespeare; whatever good these works had delivered, they were tired and the field was in need of revitalization. In particular, the materialists had proved poor at addressing instances of spiritualism or enchantment in Shakespearean drama.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRethinking Historicism from Shakespeare to Milton
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781139226431
ISBN (Print)9781107027510
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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