Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels

Front Cover
Yale University Press, 1994 - Literary Criticism - 508 pages
The last twenty years have seen an increasing fragmentation in Shakespeare studies, with the emergence of several critical schools, each with its own ideology, each convinced that all other approaches are deficient. In this important book, Brian Vickers argues that, in attempting to appropriate Shakespeare for their own purposes, each of these schools distorts the text by omission and misrepresentation. Two substantial opening chapters trace the derivation of current literary theory from the iconoclastic mood of l960s Paris. They show how an influential group of thinkers in the structuralist and post-structuralist tradition (Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Lacan, Althusser, Derrida, Foucault) promulgated a wholly negative concept of language, arguing that language cannot reliably represent reality; that literature cannot represent life; and that since no definitive reading is possible, all interpretation is misrepresentation. Vickers demonstrates that these attitudes have been decisively refuted, restates the central properties of language, and rehabilitates the notion of the author as creator of a literary work. At the core of the book he surveys the main conflicting schools in Shakespearian literary criticism - deconstructionism, feminism, new historicism, cultural materialism, and psychoanalytic, Marxist and Christian interpretations - describing the theoretical basis of each school, both in its own words and in those of its critics. Evaluating the resulting interpretations of Shakespeare, he shows that each is biased and fragmentary in its own way. Solidly researched, sharply argued and inevitably controversial, this book challenges many recent orthodoxies. As well as to theatre goers andreaders of Shakespeare and Elizabethan drama, it will be of great interest to anyone concerned with modern literary theory.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Creator and Interpreters
Undermining Overreaching
Disaffected Subjects
Finding the Fault
Misogyny Patriarchy Bombast
Allegory Ideology

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1994)

Brian Vickers is professor of English literature and director of the Centre for Renaissance Studies at the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).

Bibliographic information