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Shakespeare’s Second Future
December 5, 2011 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Solmsen Fellow (2011-2012)
English, University of Texas at Austin
In William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, Jupiter himself hands down a prophetic text to quell concerns about the future. Though this cameo doesn’t actually provide much resolution, it does highlight a central concern in a play notorious for its dizzying profusion of plots. In this talk, I consider the play’s privileging of certainty and future outcomes by tracing articulations in which characters look forward to looking back. Why might the present moment be consumed by characters’ plans for future narrative? I turn to early modern grammatical texts to account for this novel approach to temporality, and argue that in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, literature becomes a crucial locus for an emerging temporal consciousness, one that operates by investigating and reformulating categories and conceptions of time. By dramatizing temporal overlap and the renovation of categorical boundaries, Renaissance writers embrace a motivating uncertainty that offers unique access to the future.
J.K. Barret, Solmsen Fellow, is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She focuses on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University and her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded fellowship support from sources including UCLA’s Clark Library, the University of Texas at Austin, the Whiting Foundation, the Josephine de Kármán Foundation, and the Huntington Library, and has also received funding to participate in seminars at the National Humanities Center and the Folger Shakespeare Library. In addition to time and the future, her research and teaching interests include poetry and poetics, drama, literature and the visual arts, early modern legal theory, antiquity in the Renaissance, pastoral, romance, translation studies, and narrative theory.