Reading Shakespeare Reading Me (Hardcover)
A gripping, funny, joyful account of how the books you read shape your own life in surprising and profound ways.Bookworms know what scholars of literature are trained to forget: that when they devour a work of literary fiction, whatever else they may be doing, they are reading about themselves. Read Shakespeare, and you become Cleopatra, Hamlet, or Bottom. Or at the very least, you experience the plays as if you are in a small room alone with them, and they are speaking to your life, your sensibility. Drawing on fifty years as a Shakespearean, Leonard Barkan has produced a captivating book that asks us to reconsider what it means to read. Barkan violates the rule of distance he was taught and has always taught his students. He asks: Where does this brilliantly contrived fiction actually touch me? Where is Shakespeare in effect telling the story of my life? King Lear, for Barkan, raises unanswerable questions about what exactly a father does after planting the seed. Mothers from Gertrude to Lady Macbeth are reconsidered in the light of the author's experience as a son of a former flapper. The sonnets and comedies are seen through the eyes of a gay man who nevertheless weeps with joy when all the heterosexual couples are united at the end. A Midsummer Night's Dream is interpreted through the author's joyous experience of performing the role of Bottom and finding his aesthetic faith in the pantheon of antiquity. And the exquisitely poetical history play Richard II intersects with, of all things, Ru Paul's Drag Race. Full of engrossing stories, from family secrets to the world of the theater, and written with humor and genuine excitement about literary experiences worthy of our attention and our love, Reading Shakespeare Reading Me makes Shakespeare's plays come alive in new ways.
Leonard Barkan is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton, where he teaches comparative literature, art history, English, and classics. His many books include The Hungry Eye: Eating, Drinking, and the Culture of Europe from Rome to the Renaissance (Princeton, 2021), Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First-Century Companion (Chicago, 2016), Michelangelo: A Life on Paper (Princeton, 2010), Satyr Square: A Year, a Life in Rome (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006), and Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (Yale, 1999), which won prizes from the Modern Language Association, the College Art Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, Architectural Digest, and Phi Beta Kappa.