Stephen Booth (academic)

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Stephen Booth (born April 20, 1933) is a professor emeritus of English literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a Marshall Scholar and studied at the University of Cambridge. He first attracted attention with his controversial 1969 essays On the Value of Hamlet and An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets, in which he reread the works in a manner considerably different from contemporary Anglo-American readings. Frank Kermode praised the former essay in the New York Review of Books in 1970 as being worth several full books of Shakespeare studies.

In 1977 he published an edition with "analytic commentary" of the sonnets, again attracting both controversy and praise within the academy for his precision and bold rereadings. In 1983 followed King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy, probably his best-known work after the study of the sonnets. His most recent book is 1998's Precious Nonsense: The Gettysburg Address, Ben Jonson's Epitaphs on His Children, and Twelfth Night.


Literary criticism

(This list is not complete.)

The Book Called Holinshed's Chronicles. Book Club of California. San Francisco, 1969.

"On the Value of Hamlet" in Reinterpretations of Elizabethan Drama: Selected Papers from the English Institute. Ed. Norman Rabkin. New York: Columbia U P, 1969. 137-176.

An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven, 1969 [paperback, 1972].

"A Sullied, Sallied, Solid Text," The New York Review of Books, 21:20 (December 12, 1974) (excerpt)

Shakespeare's Sonnets, Edited with Analytic Commentary. New Haven, 1977 (Rev. ed., 1978; paperback, 1979; Rev.ed., 2000). (excerpts at Google Books)

"Exit Pursued by a Gentleman Born" in Shakespeare's Art from a Comparative Prospective, ed. W.M. Aycock (Lubbock, 1981), pp. 51–66.

"Milton's 'How soon hath time': A Colossus in a Cherrystone," ELH, 49 (1982), 449-67 (with Jordan Flyer).

King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, & Tragedy. New Haven, 1983.

"Poetic Richness: A Preliminary Audit" in Pacific Coast Philology, XIX, No.1-2 (1984), 68-78.

"The Shakespearean Actor as Kamikaze Pilot", Shakespeare Quarterly, 36 (1985), 553-70.

"The Best Othello I Ever Saw", Shakespeare Quarterly, 40 (1989), 332-36.

Liking Julius Caesar [pamphlet]. Ashland, Oregon, 1991.

"The Shenandoah Shakespeare Express," Shakespeare Quarterly, 43 (1992), 476-83.

"Close Reading without Readings" in Shakespeare Reread: The Texts in New Contexts, ed. Russ McDonald (Ithaca: Cornell, 1994), pp. 42–55. (excerpts at Google Books)

"The Coherences of 1 Henry IV and of Hamlet" in Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Hamlet and 1 Henry IV, ed. Peggy O'Brien (New York: Washington Square Press, 1994), pp. 32–46.

"Twelfth Night and Othello: Those Extraordinary Twins" in Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Twelfth Night and Othello, ed. Peggy O'Brien (New York: Washington Square Press, 1995), pp. 22–32.

"The Function of Criticism at the Present Time and All Others," Shakespeare Quarterly, 41 (1990), 262-68. Reprinted in Teaching Literature: A Collection of Essays on Theory and Practice, ed. L.A. Jacobus (1996).

Precious Nonsense: The Gettysburg Address, Ben Jonson's Epitaphs on His Children, and Twelfth Night. Berkeley, 1998

"Shakespeare's Language and the Language of Shakespeare's Time", Shakespeare Survey 50 (1998), 1-17. (excerpts at Google Books)

"A Long, Dull Poem by William Shakespeare", Shakespeare Studies, 25 (1998), 229-37. (excerpts at Google Books)

"On the Aesthetics of Acting," in Shakespearean Illuminations, ed. Jay L. Halio and Hugh Richmond (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1998), pp. 255–66.

"The Physics of Hamlet’s ‘Rogue and Peasant Slave’ Speech" in A Certain Text: Close Readings and Textual Studies on Shakespeare and Others, ed., Linda Anderson and Janis Lull (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2002), pp. 75–93.

Honors and awards[edit]