Dr. Sarah E. Gardner, Distinguished University Professor of History at Mercer University, will deliver the 2021 Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lectures. The lectures will take place on Zoom.
Thursday, October 14, 5:30 p.m. EDT: Political Speech and the Rhetoric of War
Friday, October 15, 5:30 p.m. EDT: Shakespeare at War
Saturday, October 16, 4:00 p.m. EDT: National Identity and Cultural Affinity
These lectures examine how warring parties engaged Shakespeare during America’s deadliest conflict. Shakespeare spoke to the cultural and political moment like no other figure. Macbeth and Julius Caesar had something to say about tyranny. The Tempest and Richard II offered a meditation on usurpation. And Henry V and Richard III told of war and its effects on those who waged it. What’s more, Shakespeare played a critical role in the nationalist strivings of both the Union and the Confederacy. Just as each warring party posited itself as the rightful inheritor of the Founding Fathers’ vision, both harkened back to Shakespeare in a similar fashion and for similar reasons. Finally, Civil War-era Americans also turned to Shakespeare for universal truths. Shakespeare, they believed, spoke to abiding concerns, such as the soul of genius, the power of the imagination, and of the heroic individual’s ability to determine an event’s outcome. By elucidating how Unionists and Confederates interpreted Shakespeare and, in turn, how Shakespeare shaped their understanding of war, these lectures reveal how the war’s participants turned to Shakespeare to articulate and justify what they thought and felt about the war and its attendant consequences.
Dr. Sarah E. Gardner is Distinguished University Professor of History at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. Her work focuses on the cultural and intellectual history the Civil War era through the early decades of the twentieth century. She is the author of Blood and Irony: Southern White Women’s Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937 and Reviewing the South: The Literary Marketplace and the Southern Renaissance, 1920-1941. Most recently she has co-edited with Natalie J. Ring, The Lost Lectures of C. Vann Woodward and, with Steven M. Stowe, Insiders, Outsiders: Toward a New History of Southern Thought.