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Paul A. Cantor (born 1945) is an American literary and media critic. He is currently the Clifton Waller Barrett Professor at the University of Virginia.
As a young man Cantor attended Ludwig von Mises' seminars in New York City. He went on to study English literature at Harvard (A.B., 1966, Ph.D., 1971), where he studied with Harvey Mansfield. Cantor has taught for many years at the University of Virginia, where he is the Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English.
Cantor has written on a wide range of subjects, including Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Jane Austen, Romanticism, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Leo Strauss, Samuel Beckett, Salman Rushdie, New Historicism, Austrian economics, postcolonial novels, contemporary popular culture, and relations between culture and commerce.
Cantor has published extensively on Shakespeare. In Shakespeare's Rome: Republic and Empire (1974), a revision of his doctoral thesis, he analyzes Shakespeare's Roman plays and contrasts the austere, republican mentality of Coriolanus with the bibulous and erotic energies of Antony and Cleopatra. In Shakespeare: Hamlet (1989), he depicts Hamlet as man torn between pagan and Christian conceptions of heroism. In his articles on Macbeth, he analyzes "the Scottish play" using similar polarities.
Cantor has also published articles on many other Shakespeare plays, including As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Othello, King Lear, Timon of Athens, and The Tempest.
Cantor's second book, Creature and Creator: Myth-Making and English Romanticism (1984), includes discussions of Rousseau, Blake, Byron, and the Shelleys.
Cantor is perhaps best known for his writings on popular culture. In Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization (2003), he analyzes four popular American television shows: Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, The Simpsons, and The X-Files. A 2004 article in Americana described Cantor as "a preeminent scholar in the field of American popular culture studies." His most recent contribution in this area is The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV (2012).
Cantor has combined his interest in literature with an interest in Austrian Economics. Literature and the Economics of Liberty: Spontaneous Order in Culture (2010), a collection of essays Cantor edited with Stephen Cox, explores ways in which one can use Austrian economics to understand works of literature. Cantor has presented his work at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and in 1992 received the Ludwig von Mises Prize for Scholarship in Austrian Economics.
- The Law versus the Marketplace in Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, in Solon and Thesis: Law and Theater in the English Renaissance, ed. Dennis Kezar
- "A Class Act: Persuasion and the Lingering Death of the Aristocracy," Philosophy and Literature 23.1 (1999)127-137.
- "The Politics of Epic: Wordsworth, Byron, and the Romantic Redefinition of Heroism," The Review of Politics 69 (2007) 375-401.
- "Oscar Wilde: The Man of Soul Under Socialism," in Beauty and the Critic ed. James Soderholm (1997).
- The Invisible Man and the Invisible Hand:H. G. Wells's Critique of Capitalism, The American Scholar.
- Leo Strauss and Contemporary Hermeneutics," in Leo Strauss's Thought, ed. Alan Udoff (1991).
- "Tales of the Alhambra: Rushdie's Use of Spanish History in The Moor's Last Sigh," Studies in the Novel (1997).
- "Stephen Greenblatt's New Historicist Vision," Academic Questions (1993).
- "'A Soldier and Afeard': Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland," Interpretation, Spring 1997. Reprinted in revised form as “Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland” in Shakespeare as Political Thinker, eds. John Alvis and Thomas West, ISI Press, 2000.
- “The Spectrum of Love: Nature and Convention in As You Like It,” in Souls With Longing: Representations of Honor and Love in Shakespeare, eds. Bernard J. Dobski and Dustin A. Gish, Lexington Books, 2011
- Religion and the Limits of Community in The Merchant of Venice, Soundings.
- “‘Christian Kings’ and ‘English Mercuries’: Henry V and the Classical Tradition of Manliness,” in Educating the Prince: Essays in Honor of Harvey Mansfield, eds. Mark Blitz and William Kristol, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000; “Shakespeare’s Henry V: From the Medieval to the Modern World,” in Perspectives on Politics in Shakespeare, eds. John A. Murley and Sean D. Sutton, Lexington Books, 2006.
- "Othello: The Erring Barbarian among the Supersubtle Venetians," Southwest Review, Summer 1990
- "King Lear: The Tragic Disjunction of Wisdom and Power," in Shakespeare's Political Pageant, ed. Joseph Alulis and Vickie Sullivan (1996); "Nature and Convention in King Lear," in Poets, Princes, & Private Citizens: Literary Alternatives to Postmodern Politics, eds. Joseph Knippenberg and Peter Lawler, Rowman & Littlefield, 1996; "On Sitting Down to Read King Lears Once Again: The Textual Deconstruction of Shakespeare," in The Flight From Science and Reason, eds. Paul Gross, Norman Levitt, and Martin Lewis, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997
- "Timon of Athens: The Corrupt City and the Origins of Philosophy," IN-BETWEEN: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism, 4.1. (March,1995)
- "Shakespeare's The Tempest: The Wise Man as Hero," Shakespeare Quarterly, Spring 1980; "Prospero's Republic: The Politics of Shakespeare's The Tempest," in Shakespeare as Political Thinker, eds. John Alvis and Thomas West, Carolina Academic Press, 1981;“Shakespeare’ The Tempest: Tragicomedy and the Philosophic Hero,” in Shakespeare’s Last Plays: Essays in Literature and Politics, eds. Stephen W. Smith and Travis Curtright, Lexington Books, 2002
- Paul Cantor's faculty profile on the University of Virginia English Department website.
- A series of ten audio/video lectures by Paul A. Cantor on Commerce and Culture at the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, USA (2006).
Online publications by Paul A. Cantor:
- Austrian economic and culture: An interview with Paul Cantor (2001)
- Cantor's articles at reason.com
- Cantor's texts at mises.org
- Cantor's article "This Is Not Your Father's FBI" (On the X-Files) (2001)
- Conversation with Paul A. Cantor on popular American culture (2005)
- Cantor's article "Popular Culture and Spontaneous Order or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Tube" (2006)
- Cantor's review article "Economic and Cultural Globalization" (2007)
- Cantor's recent book, co-edited with Stephen Cox: Literature and the Economics of Liberty: Spontaneous Order in Culture (2009).
- An hour-long audio-presentation of the above book (2010) by Paul A. Cantor
- A short REASON.TV-interview with Cantor about the above book (October, 2010)