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Harvard professor to give Phi Beta Kappa lecture on Shakespeare and humanities

October 08, 2013

Marjorie Garber, a literary scholar and cultural critic, will deliver the Phi Beta Kappa lecture at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in Decker Auditorium, Lewis Hall of Science. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Garber, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University, will look at Shakespeare in historical perspective for clues as to the future of not only Shakespeare studies but the humanities as well in her lecture, “Occupy Shakespeare: Shakespeare and/in the Humanities."

Today Shakespeare’s “plays are part of contemporary culture, in popular music, advertising, and journalistic headlines; and they are also part of literary culture, the culture of ‘the humanities,’” Garber says, introducing her lecture topic. “There was a time when Shakespeare’s plays were not considered serious enough, or appropriate for, study in libraries or universities. And there was a time, a slightly later time, when Shakespeare’s plays were considered the property of a subset of the learned class, different from, and distinct from, the practitioners of applied or practical knowledge.”

Of course, that has changed and will likely continue to evolve.

“For many people, Shakespeare is the humanities, quoted, cited, and sung as an authority on philosophy, statecraft, character, love and death,” Garber says. “What’s next for Shakespeare studies, in and beyond the academy? What can the itinerary of ‘Shakespeare’ in the last hundred years tell us about the future of the humanities in the twenty-first century?”

One of the premier scholars of William Shakespeare, Garber has also examined Renaissance literature and contemporary culture and has written extensively on literary and cultural theory, gender, sexuality, the arts and intellectual life. She has published 17 books and edited seven collections of essays, including “Shakespeare After All,” a Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award winner that was chosen by Newsweek magazine as one of the five best nonfiction books in 2004. “Loaded Words” is her latest collection of essays on a range of themes. 

At Harvard, she has served as director of the Humanities Center and associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. A member of the American Philosophical Society and a trustee of the English Institute, she is past president of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes and a continuing member of its advisory board, and has served on the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It has chapters at 283 colleges and universities, and more than 500,000 members. The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program makes available distinguished scholars who visit colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, including McDaniel. The college’s Delta of Maryland Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was chartered May 1, 1980.