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Lycoming College welcomes Zachary Lesser, Ph.D., as this year’s guest speaker for the James and Emily Douthat lecture series. Lesser’s presentation, “Before the First Folio: Who Was Shakespeare in 1619?,” will take place Thursday, Oct. 28, at 7:00 p.m. in the Trogner Presentation Room with a reception to follow. The event is free and open to the public.
During his lecture, Lesser will walk through recent research he undertook for his new book, “Ghosts, Holes, Rips and Scrapes: Shakespeare in 1619, Bibliography in the Longue Durée.” The research consisted of examining more than 300 surviving copies of Shakespeare plays that appeared in London bookshops four years before the publication of the First Folio.
“This collection was far more mysterious,” said Lesser. “It was a kind of ‘bootleg’ copy that remained hiding in plain sight until the early twentieth century when modern bibliographical techniques revealed the story of fraud and piracy that lay behind it. The forensic evidence of these copies tells a story that is stranger than we have suspected and gives us a Shakespeare who was not quite Shakespeare as we know him now.”
Lesser is the Edward W. Kane Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a general editor of the Arden Shakespeare, fourth series, in which he is also editing “Macbeth.” He has authored two other books, “Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication” (2004) and “Hamlet After Q1: An Uncanny History of the Shakespearean Text” (2015), both of which won the Elizabeth Dietz award for the best book in early modern studies. Lesser is additionally the co-creator of two digital resources for studying early modern printed drama: “DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks” and the “Shakespeare Census.”
The lecture is sponsored by the James and Emily Douthat Distinguished Lectureship Series in the liberal arts and sciences, named for James Douthat, former president of Lycoming College, and his wife Emily, for their years of service to the College. The annual lecture, which is not field-specific, attracts top scholarly guest speakers to the College. Lycoming’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society for all academic disciplines, organizes the lectureship.