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Pulitzer Winner Stephen Greenblatt Addresses Taiwan Shakespeare Association at NTU

Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University’s John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, visited NTU and spoke on “Shakespeare’s Life Stories” on July 5. While thunder and lightning raged outside, Greenblatt took the full-house audience in the General Library’s auditorium by storm with sweeping knowledge, infused with gentle persuasiveness and beguiling stories. His lecture was the inaugural venture of the Taiwan Shakespeare Association. Joining NTU faculty, represented by Deputy Dean Luisa Shu-Ying Chang of the College of Liberal Arts, in welcoming Greenblatt were Pin-chia Feng of the National Science Council, Judy Celine Ick of the Asian Shakespeare Association, and I-chun Wang of the English and American Literature Association of the Republic of China and the Taiwan Association of Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies. The event was sponsored by the National Science Council and NTU’s College of Liberal Arts.

A most influential and provocative literary scholar of his generation, Stephen Greenblatt transformed the studies of culture, Shakespeare, and Renaissance. He is a founding figure of New Historicism, introducing a new historical, political and theoretical rigor to the field of early modern literature. As General Editor of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, he is a must-read for students all over the world, and his influence extends beyond the campus. Will in the World, his biography of Shakespeare, was on the New York Times bestselling list for nine weeks, followed by another bestseller, The Swerve, which won him a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

In 2008 Greenblatt and Charles Mee initiated an extensive experiment in “cultural mobility” with a grant from the Mellon Foundation. They collaborated in the writing of a play, Cardenio, inspired by a lost play of Shakespeare's. Theater companies around the world were asked to adapt it for a performance in their own cultural circumstances. Greenblatt’s intention is to explore what happens when a story generated within one set of assumptions, preoccupations, constraints, and conventions is reshaped for performance in a very different world. The play has since been translated and adapted in eleven countries. Taiwan’s Betrayal, written by Ching-Hsi Perng and Fang Chen and directed by Baochun Li, is the concluding piece. The evening after his speech, Greenblatt watched the Chinese opera style performance, by Chinese Culture University students, and lauded the ingenious rewriting, exquisite music, colorful costumes, and stunning martial arts. He then led a post-performance discussion.

With this auspicious start, the Taiwan Shakespeare Association is now launched. Shakespeare thrives in Taiwan’s theatres, classrooms, and academies. The translation, research, teaching and performance of Shakespeare is rich and diverse, and has become increasingly visible and influential with Taiwan’s hosting of international conferences, participation in transnational organizations, and collaboration with foreign theatre groups and scholarly organizations. In the 21st century, Shakespeare is no longer confined in certain fields of humanities, but reaches out to specialists in social sciences and digital technology and thus encourages interdisciplinary studies. Taiwan Shakespeare Association, a formal society and a platform for communication, collaboration, and exchange, with a global vision and local focus, is established at the right moment.

It may come as no surprise that NTU faculty comprise half of the Executive and Supervising Committees of the Taiwan Shakespeare Association: Bi-qi Beatrice Lei (President), Chin-jung Chiu (Secretary), Yanwing Leung, Vivian Ching-Mei Chu, Yi-Mei Wang, and Ching-Hsi Perng. NTU has played a critical role in Taiwan’s Shakespeare studies, as the birthplace and nursery for the NTU Shakespeare Forum, Taiwan ShakeScene, Taiwan Shakespeare Database, Taiwan Shakespeare Association, and Asian Shakespeare Association. Starting in 2004, the NTU Shakespeare Forum founded by Ching-Hsi Perng has organized seven international conferences. Bi-qi Beatrice Lei, Coordinator of the Forum since 2006, has served on the Executive Committee of the International Shakespeare Association since 2012. She also initiated the Asian Shakespeare Association and was elected as the inaugural Chair of its Executive Committee.

In May 2014 NTU will host “Shakespearean Journeys,” the first conference of the Asian Shakespeare Association. Invited speakers include Peter Holbrook (Chair of the Executive Committee, International Shakespeare Association), Kawachi Yoshiko, Lena Cowen Orlin (Executive Director, Shakespeare Association of America), Rustom Bharucha, Lin Shen, Nehad Selaiha, and Ing K. The conference also features live performances from Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines, and films from Thailand. It will be a high-profile event of profound interest for scholars and students of Shakespeare, cultural translation, and performance. For more information and the call for participation, please visit http://AsianShakespeare.org.

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