All's Wells that ends well

January 16, 1998

Jennifer Wallace's approving profile of Peter Holland, the new director of the Shakespeare Institute of the University of Birmingham, (THES, "The luvvie director", December 26 1997) unfairly characterised the directorship of Holland's predecessor, Stanley Wells. Wallace did not name the academics who "confess" to feeling that "the institute has been in the doldrums for years", but they must be unaware of much of the institute's work.

I have just finished being a research student at the institute and know that, for instance, during this supposedly dull period, the deputy director, Russell Jackson, helped Kenneth Branagh make three hugely successful Shakespearean films.

Wallace's comment that "Wells, while always interested in the theatre ... was really on the traditional wing of Shakespeare studies" is inaccurate. Wells was responsible for what Wallace admits was the "ground-breaking Oxford Shakespeare" - which sought to represent Shakespeare's plays as they were first performed. Wells reinstated the original titles and character names of these plays despite loud cries of objection from scholarly traditionalists hostile to stage-centred thinking.

Wallace also claims that "American feminists and post-Marxist critics" would "not have been invited in the past" to the annual conference at the Shakespeare Institute. This prohibition on modern theorists will be news to the many feminists, cultural materialists and new historicists who have been invited to speak at the conference and at institute seminars, including Katherine McLuskie, Jonathan Dollimore, Marion O' Connor, Alan Sinfield, Catherine Belsey, Terry Hawkes, Margreta de Grazia, Peter Stallybrass, Carol Chillington Rutter, Dymphna Callaghan and John Drakakis.

Gabriel Egan. Welford on Avon, Warwickshire

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