Voices of the present and past : examining scholarly identity through the romances of William Shakespeare

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The current academic climate has constructed a false binary between new-historicism and presentism. This thesis subverts the possibility of that binary distinction by pointing out that, according to the tenants of presentism, Shakespeare was a presentist before going on to illustrate how the notions of presentism can and must exist in relation with ideas of new-historicism rather than developing an illusionary dichotomy between the two. In this way, new-historicism and presentism become part of one conversation that helps the modern world to define itself rather than contradictory views of how to deal with the past. By seeing how Shakespeare put used history in order to define the present, in spite of his apparent efforts to separate the present entirely from the past, it becomes possible to see the present as in conversation with the past rather than separate from it. New-Historicism and presentism, then, exist within the same paradox, and, by recognizing this within the canonical figure of Shakespeare, scholarship can begin to work toward a unified conversation about how the present and the past define one another at the same time that they are separate.




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