Michael Witmore

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Michael Witmore
Michael Witmore vertical.jpg
Michael Witmore at the Folger Shakespeare Library
Born (1967-05-03) May 3, 1967 (age 55)
Alma materVassar College
University of California, Berkeley
OccupationDirector, Folger Shakespeare Library

Michael Witmore (born May 3, 1967) is a Shakespearean, scholar of rhetoric, digital humanist, and director of a library and cultural institution. In 2011, he was appointed the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where he continues to serve.

Early life and career[edit]

Michael Witmore graduated from Vassar College in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in English.[1] He has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley. From 1999 to 2008, he was an assistant professor and then an associate professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. From 2008 to 2011, he was a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[2][3][4]

Witmore's books include Culture of Accidents: Unexpected Knowledges in Early Modern England (2001), the co-winner of the 2003 Perkins Prize for the study of narrative literature;[5] Pretty Creatures: Children and Fiction in the English Renaissance (2007); Shakespearean Metaphysics (2008); and Landscapes of the Passing Strange: Reflections from Shakespeare (2010) with photographer Rosamond Purcell. He was the co-curator with Purcell of the 2012 Folger exhibition "Very Like a Whale," based on Landscapes of the Passing Strange. He co-edited Childhood and Children's Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550–1800 (2006) and Shakespeare and Early Modern Religion (2015).[6]

Digital humanities[edit]

A pioneer in the use of computers for digital analysis of the texts of William Shakespeare, Witmore launched and directed the Working Group for Digital Inquiry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and organized the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.[7][8][9]

He also founded Wine Dark Sea, a blog on the nature of linguistic variation in Shakespeare's plays and early modern English text; he continues to jointly maintain the blog with Jonathan Hope of Strathclyde University.[10] Witmore and Hope are collaborating on a book in progress, Shakespeare by the Numbers and Other Tales from the Digital Frontier.[11][12]

Witmore is interested in how the resources of computing, when applied to collections of digitized texts, can allow scholars to do intellectual and cultural history "at the level of the sentence."[13] He is known for proposing that "massive addressability" is a fundamental feature of texts.[14][15]

Folger Shakespeare Library[edit]

As the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Witmore developed a new Strategic Plan, which was accepted by the Board in 2013.[16][17]

During Witmore's tenure, the Folger has pursued multiple digital humanities (DH) projects, including Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO),[18] Shakespeare's World (a crowdsourced manuscripts project), Shakespeare Documented,[19] free and searchable Folger Digital Texts of Shakespeare's plays and poems, A Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama, and apps with a social reading platform for seven of Shakespeare's most-known plays.[20]

Witmore led the Folger in celebrating two major anniversaries: the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 2014[21] and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016.[22][23] In preparation for both events, the library updated and renovated its Great Hall exhibition space[24] and completed a number of upgrades to its Elizabethan Theatre.[25] For the 2016 anniversary, the Folger organized the First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare tour, displaying First Folios from the Folger collection in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, with public programs and events at the host sites.[26][27][28]

Other aspects of the 2016 anniversary celebration included a CSPAN2 Book TV LIVE broadcast on the anniversary date,[29] a Los Angeles exhibition on America's Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West,[30] launching a continuing Theater Partnership Program nationwide,[31] commissioning the vocal work "The Isle" (based on The Tempest) by Caroline Shaw,[32][33] premiering District Merchants, a variation of The Merchant of Venice set in Washington, DC, after the Civil War,[34][35] and piloting the CrossTalk DC community discussion program on race and religion as part of the NEH’s Humanities in the Public Square program.[36][37]

Under Witmore, the Folger also produced an NEH-funded 2011–13 national touring panel exhibition, with the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, on the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible;[38] the free Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series; studio recordings of seven Shakespeare plays by the Folger Theatre;[39] Experiencing Shakespeare, an electronic field trip used by hundreds of thousands of students, which won two regional Emmys;[40] and the general-audience Shakespeare & Beyond blog.


  1. ^ Selden, Richard. “"Beyond Vassar: Honoring the Bard", Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly, February 2016.
  2. ^ Witmore, Michael. "Curriculum Vitae", Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  3. ^ "Dr. Michael Witmore", Staff Directory. Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Selden, Richard. “"Beyond Vassar: Honoring the Bard", Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly, February 2016.
  5. ^ "The Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Prize: Past Prize Winners", International Society for the Study of Narrative, Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Retrieved on May 10, 2017.
  6. ^ Witmore, Michael. "Curriculum Vitae", Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  7. ^ "Michael Witmore, Contributor", Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved on May 10, 2017.
  8. ^ Witmore, Michael. "Curriculum Vitae", Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  9. ^ Ungerleider, Neal. "The Data-Mining’s The Thing: Shakespeare Takes Center Stage in the Digital Age", Fast Company, December 14, 2011.
  10. ^ "Using this site", Wine Dark Sea blog. Retrieved on May 10, 2017.
  11. ^ "Folger Shakespeare Library Names New Director". Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts. Press release, April 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Witmore, Michael. "Curriculum Vitae", Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  13. ^ "Michael Witmore: Shakespeare from the Waist Down". Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.
  14. ^ "Latour, the Digital Humanities, and the Divided Kingdom of Knowledge", Project MUSE.
  15. ^ "Text: A Massively Addressable Object", Wine Dark Sea blog. December 31, 2010.
  16. ^ "Dr. Michael Witmore", Staff Directory. Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  17. ^ "Annual Report" July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. Folger Shakespeare Library.
  18. ^ "Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO)", Folgerpedia, Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  19. ^ "Shakespeare Documented", Folger Shakespeare Library. Press release, January 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  20. ^ "Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps". Folger Shakespeare Library. Press release.
  21. ^ "Shakespeare's the Thing", Folgerpedia. Folger Shakespeare Library.
  22. ^ "April 2016: Shakespeare at 400". Folger Shakespeare Library. Press release, April 23, 2016.
  23. ^ "The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare", Folger Shakespeare Library.
  24. ^ "Annual Report", July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. Folger Shakespeare Library.
  25. ^ "Annual Report", July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Folger Shakespeare Library.
  26. ^ "First Folio: The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare", Folger Shakespeare Library.
  27. ^ "Rare Shakespeare First Folio to tour all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico in 2016". Folger Shakespeare Library. Press release, February 26, 2015.
  28. ^ Selden, Richard. "Beyond Vassar: Honoring the Bard", Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly, February 2016.
  29. ^ 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare's Death April 23, 2016, C-SPAN.
  30. ^ Babayan, Siran. "America's Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West", LA Weekly.
  31. ^ "Theater Partnership Program", Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  32. ^ "Roomful of Teeth", via PressReader, Washington Post, November 18, 2016.
  33. ^ "Roomful of Teeth", Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  34. ^ Blair, Elizabeth. "This Shakespeare Reconstruction Sets "Merchant" in Post-Civil War D.C.", NPR, June 30, 2016.
  35. ^ "District Merchants", Folger Shakespeare Library.
  36. ^ "Trinity Partners with Folger Shakespeare Library for "CrossTalk: D.C. Reflects on Identity and Difference". Trinity. Press release, September 28, 2016.
  37. ^ "CrossTalk: DC Reflects on Identity and Difference", Folger Shakespeare Library.
  38. ^ "Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible", Folgerpedia, Folger Shakespeare Library.
  39. ^ "Podcasts and Recordings: Audio Editions", Folger Shakespeare Library.
  40. ^ "APT Wins Emmy Awards". Alabama Public Television. Press release, June 10, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

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