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October 30, 2010, 2:30 PM

The Imagination of Hamlet

Participants: Robert Brustein, Christian Camargo, Paul Fry (moderator), Laura Levine, Eugene Mahon, Susanne Wofford

While Hamlet may be the play most strongly associated with the romantic tradition—Coleridge thought there was "a smack of Hamlet" in himself—the Prince may not be the romantic solipsist and procrastinator he is so often taken for. It may in fact be a mistake to presume that Hamlet, impulse killer of Polonius and virtuoso maritime escape artist, procrastinates at all. Hamlet's often wildly contradictory behavior—his tendency to over-analyze versus his impulsiveness, his interiority versus his love of theatrics—reveals a mind whose inner workings defy easy characterization. This roundtable will delve into the complexities of Hamlet's imagination—dealing with him as both subject and object, agent and repository of thought—and reflect on the imagining of the play itself.

Robert Brustein is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University, Senior Research Fellow and former Professor of English at Harvard University, and past Dean of the Yale Drama School. He was the founding director of the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre, where he continues to teach students. His most recent books are Millennial Stages and The Tainted Muse: Prejudice and Presumption in Shakespeare and His Time, and he has been theatre critic for The New Republic since 1959. In addition to eleven adaptations, including The Wild Duck, The Master Builder, and When We Dead Awaken (directed by Robert Wilson), he has written several full-length plays, including Demons; Nobody Dies on Friday; The Face Lift; Spring Forward, Fall Back; and three plays about Shakespeare: The English Channel, Mortal Terror, and The Last Will.

Christian Camargo's Broadway acting credits include the recent revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons and David Hare's Skylight. Other theater credits include the title roles in Theater for A New Audience's productions of Coriolanus and Hamlet, for which he won an Obie and Drama League nomination. Camargo also played the title role in the Public Theater's Kit Marlowe and appeared in the world premier of Steve Martin's Underpants. He was a company member of the Globe Theater's inaugural season in London, where he performed in Henry V and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. Recently he completed the world tour of The Bridge Project, performing in The Tempest and As You Like It under the direction of Sam Mendes. Film and television roles include K19: The Widowmaker, Henry May Long, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, Showtime's Dexter, Happy Tears, and The Hurt Locker.

Paul Fry is William Lampson Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Yale University. He has written on British romanticism, the history of literary criticism, contemporary literary theory, and literature in relation to the visual arts. His book The Poet's Calling in the English Ode received the Melville Cane Award of the Poetry Society of America, and his most recent books are William Wordsworth and the Poetry of What We Are and A Defense of Poetry: Essays on the Occasion of Writing. Fry teaches Shakespeare to K-12 teachers at the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. His lecture course in modern literary theory can be seen online at Open Yale, Facebook, and iTunes.

Laura Levine is an Associate Professor of Theatre Studies in Drama at NYU's Tisch School, where she teaches courses in Shakespeare, Renaissance literature and culture, memoir writing, and autobiographical performance. Her first book, Men in Women's Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization 1579-1642, examines anxieties about boy actors on the Renaissance stage. She is at work on a book about anxieties about witchcraft during the early modern period, and a series of essays about ballet. The recipient of grants from the NEH, The Mary Ingraham Bunting Association, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, she is a 2010 winner of NYU's Distinguished Teaching Award.

Eugene Mahon is a training and supervising analyst at the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center for Training and Research. He practices child and adult psychoanalysis in Manhattan. His recent articles on Shakespeare include "A Parapraxis in Hamlet" and "Parapaxes in the Plays of William Shakespeare" in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, and "The Death of Hamnet: An Essay on Grief and Creativity" in The Psychoanalytic Quarterly. He is the author of several plays, including Yesterday's Silence, A Mouthful of Air, Anna and Siegmund at the Rue Royale, and In the Company of Ghosts. He has published a psychoanalytic fable, Rensal the Redbit, and one of his poems, "Steeds of Darkness," was set to music by the American composer Miriam Gideon.

Susanne Wofford is the Dean of NYU's Gallatin School. Previously she taught at Yale University and the University of Wisconsin, where she served as Director of the Center for the Humanities and as the Mark Eccles Professor of English. She has been a member of the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English since 1987 and was a Visiting Professor at both Harvard and Princeton Universities. Her research interests include Shakespeare, Spenser, Renaissance and classical epic, comparative European drama, and narrative and literary theory. Wofford's publications include Shakespeare: The Late Tragedies and Hamlet: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism, and the forthcoming The Apparent Corpse: Popular and Transnational Bodies on the Shakespearean Stage.

This program is supported in part by funds from the New York Council for the Humanities, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


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