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The Victorian Cult of Shakespeare
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Book description

In the Victorian era, William Shakespeare's work was often celebrated as a sacred text: a sort of secular English Bible. Even today, Shakespeare remains a uniquely important literary figure. Yet Victorian criticism took on religious dimensions that now seem outlandish in retrospect. Ministers wrote sermons based upon Shakespearean texts and delivered them from pulpits in Christian churches. Some scholars crafted devotional volumes to compare his texts directly with the Bible's. Still others created Shakespearean societies in the faith that his inspiration was not like that of other playwrights. Charles LaPorte uses such examples from the Victorian cult of Shakespeare to illustrate the complex relationship between religion, literature and secularization. His work helps to illuminate a curious but crucial chapter in the history of modern literary studies in the West, as well as its connections with Biblical scholarship and textual criticism.


‘The Victorian Cult of Shakespeare, with its rich archive and its definitive intervention in the history of Shakespeare’s reception, makes an important contribution to both Victorian and Shakespeare studies. And its significance extends well beyond those fields. For all its apparent specificity of focus, it is an expansive book, addressing essential questions about the relationship between readers and texts. LaPorte brings to his project both great erudition and great open-mindedness; he is unfailingly generous toward the texts he studies, treating them not as mere curiosities but as meaningful testaments to readerly devotion. His reading is, in a word, unsuspicious, without ever being naive, and his book makes clear on every page how rewarding, even revelatory, such a reading can be.’

Erik Gray Source: Nineteenth-Century Literature

‘Highly recommended.'

N. Birns Source: Choice

‘… this is a book of considerable value in making available texts long overlooked, allowing readers to place them within the larger frames of Victorian clerisy and Shakespearean studies.’

Stuart Sillars Source: Modern Language Quarterly

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