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Shakespeare and the 1590s Style

Final Report Summary - EARLY SHAKESPEARE (Shakespeare and the 1590s Style)

Executive Summary:

Dr Goran Stanivukovic's research on Early Shakespeare: Shakespeare and the late 1590s style gives a unique insight into the transmission of literature, cultural and historical influences across Europe in the early modern period. His original and innovative study of Shakespeare presents a unique instance of the English reception, absorption and and transmission of influences from the European humanist tradition; itself in turn in dialogue with texts, authors and ideas from the classical past. The project represents a fascinating study of transnational and trans-cultural transmission and transformation while also creating a new model for understanding these dynamic cultural patterns. Dr Goran Stanivukovic gives us a Europe-facing Shakespeare whose work can help us to reconnect vital strands of the humanist debates that ranged across early modern Europe and which drew vitality from the classical past.

The project succeeds in its ambition to overturn an older tradition of literary scholarship that ignored or criticised Shakespeare's early work because it was judged to be over-reliant on rhetorical formulas. Instead, Dr Goran Stanivukovic gives us a Shakespeare who succeeds aesthetically precisely because his work is so porous to the European humanist tradition and so effective in its transmission and transformation of its influences.

Dr Stanivukovic's main results consist of a significant enlargement of the cultural and historical context within which we understand Shakespeare's style. The project has shaped a Shakespeare influenced by Ovidian themes of transgression and transformation; by Italian texts such as Torquato Tasso and Matteo Boiardo (via Edmund Spenser); and by European conceptions of epic. In doing this, the project draws critical attention to neglected formal aspects of Shakespeare's work, in particular hyperbole and heroic style.

The project findings were achieved via a combination of textual, historical, linguistic and anthropological methods. The project demonstrates the interplay between English and European humanist rhetoricians and between cultural and wider political and historical contexts. This blending of historicist and formalist methodology represents the state of the art in contemporary literary scholarship

Project results and conclusions have been transmitted via conference presentations and other talks as well as via publications. The impact on the worldwide community of Shakespeare scholars has yet to be seen but is likely to be significant, based on the originality and innovation of the work. The project also models methods of studying pathways of cultural and intellectual exchange that are likely to be influential in their own right.