Publication Date: August 31, 2005
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This legendary book by an esteemed poet and beloved professor at Columbia University features a series of smart, witty, deeply perceptive essays about each of Shakespeare's plays, together with a further discussion of the poems. Writing with an incomparable knowledge of his subject but without a hint of pedantry, Van Doren elucidates both the astonishing boldness and myriad subtleties of Shakespeare's protean art. His Shakespeare is a book to be treasured by both new and longtime students of the Bard.
Mark Van Doren (1894-1972) was born in Hope, Illinois, and received his A.M. and Ph.D. from Columbia, where he taught literature for nearly forty years and where his students included Thomas Merton, John Berryman, and Allen Ginsberg. It was there, and with his book The Liberal Education, that he helped promote the influential “great books” movement. Van Doren was literary editor of The Nation and president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his books are critical biographies of such writers as Dryden and Hawthorne; a study of epic poetry, The Noble Voice; several plays; an auto-biography; novels; and many volumes of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Collected Poems, 1922-1938.
David Lehman’s new book of poems, his sixth, is When a Woman Loves a Man. He is the series editor of The Best American Poetry, the annual anthology he founded in 1988, and is currently preparing a new edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His nonfiction books include The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets and Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man.
"Van Doren’s Shakespeare got me through Harry Levin’s [Harvard] course back in 1951. Whenever I read a Shax play I reread what Van Doren said about it." — John Updike
"Professor Van Doren enlightens us, not because he has any special knowledge or private advantages, but because his love of Shakespeare has been greater than our own." — W.H. Auden
"If during my stay at Columbia I had met only Mark Van Doren and his work, it would have been worth the trouble." — Delmore Schwartz
"It was the force of his example that made me a poet." — John Berryman