Shakespeare and Language


Jonathan R. Hope

1Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 These four papers come out of a seminar entitled “Shakespeare’s Sentences.” The starting point for the seminar was the notion that “the sentence” lies at the heart of Shakespeare’s language, but that what this means shifts both historically and as we approach Shakespeare’s language from different disciplinary standpoints.

2Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The seminar title, for example, is a hat tip to John Porter Houston’s still challenging and fruitful book Shakespearean Sentences (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1988), which argues that one of the key features of his poetry is the deployment of unexpected word orders. The seminar topic also invited formal linguistic work on Shakespearean and early modern syntax and morphology, while the notion of sententiae opened up rhetoric and formal classical influence. The orthographic aspects of the sentence, fixed by compositors and scribes rather than Shakespeare, invited seminar papers on punctuation, textual transmission, and editing.

3Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Several of the papers in the seminar (by Adam Hooks, Gretchen Minchen, and Julie Rumbold) took sententiae and quotation as their basis. These papers are not represented here, as their work forms part of larger projects due for publication in the future, but I hope that all three will play roles as commentators in the open review process.

4Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The papers we do have represent digital text analysis (Tootalian), and the broad theme of “language about language”—the influence of medieval and renaissance linguistic theory and grammar teaching on language practice and attitudes at the time (Magnusson, Knecht, Tudeau-Clayton). They thus represent two areas of research that have developed strongly over the past few years: the detailed analysis of linguistic features using digital searching and statistical analysis and the recontextualisation of our understanding of how “language” was conceptualized in the renaissance.

5Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 I would like to thank all members of the seminar, and our auditors at the conference, for a particularly rewarding set of papers and exchanges—and I look forward to them continuing in this new medium.

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