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The first part of my interview with David Scott Kastan was published in the last issue (60:3 [Winter 2010/ 2011], 82, 89, 92-94, 97). To recap just who Professor Kastan is for anyone who does not know, he is the George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University, and he serves as one of the General Editors of the Third Edition of the Arden Shakespeare, for which he edited I Henry IV (2002). In addition, he is series editor for the Barnes and Noble Shakespeare and co-edits, with David Bevington, the revised Bantam Shakespeare.
In Part I, we discussed editing plays and anthologies, plus some more general questions about books that have influenced his thinking. This part covers Kastan's ideas about Theory as revealed in his Shakespeare After Theory (Routledge, 1999), and how things have changed since publication, and his Shakespeare and the Book (Cambridge University Press, 2001). Readers have already told us how helpful Part I has been, especially in providing a wonderful review and evaluation of the important work in the field. I am pretty impressed by David Kastan as well.
MPJ: Let's talk a little Theory. It was refreshing to see this proclamation on the back cover of Shakespeare after Theory (Routledge, 1999), "Kastan argues that any understanding of what Shakespeare means in our time must begin with an acknowledgment of his distance from us, for only then can we be sure that what we Find in his work are his concerns rather than our own projections." You look at Shakespeare's texts both in and as history, and include fascinating and informed readings of 1 Henry IV, Macbeth, and The Tempest. Who had you read that made you think Shakespeare After Theory was needed?
DSK: I am not sure "needed" is the right word. If it is, I guess I needed to write it in order to think through my reactions to the explosion of theoretical concerns into literary studies beginning in the mid-1980s. Everything I have written I wrote in that sense for me: to make me better understand something I was interested in. From the beginning of my graduate work I knew I wrested to work in some way on the relationship of literature and history, though as I wrote nay dissertation I didn't have a theoretical vocabulary to conceptualize what I cared about. I was fortunate that the outside reader of my dissertation was Alan Donegan, who worked on the philosophy of history. He introduced me to Hayden White, whose Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth Century Europe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973) and later The Content O[the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Johns Hopkins University Press. 1987) provocatively insisted that history was always something made rather than something merely found brilliantly challenging the unexamined positivism of much history writing by exploring how rhetorical and narrative strategies were unavoidably and consequentially part of its method. When I went to Dartmouth the next year I met Maurice Mandelbaum, who was also interested in the philosophy of history. I read his Problem of Historical Knowledge: An Answer to Relativism (Harper & Row, 1967), which both carefully described the various philosophical positions that denied any objective knowledge of the past was possible and offered a rigorous and dear reply, trying to answer their radical skepticism. So, my earliest theoretical influences came that way. Then, like everyone else, I started to read Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and, for me most importantly, Pierre Bourdieu. I think his Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge University Press, 1977) was the first book of his that I read, and that led me to think differently about ways texts incorporate and reproduce history. Pierre Macherey's Theory of Literary Production (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978) was also massively important to me as I tried to think my ways outside of the mystifications that understandably surround (and often prevent) thinking about literature.
There were, however, both influences and provocations from within the rich traditions of Shakespeare criticism. I always thought about Shakespeare After Theory as just one side of a multiple-voiced conversation that had long been going on in my head. I was lucky to have David Bevington as a dissertation director, and to have become friendly with Stephen Orgel early in my time at Dartmouth, where he usually spent the summers. Both have been enormously influential, both in terms of what they have written but more, perhaps, in ongoing conversations over the years as each, differently, worked through the same sorts of questions I was wrestling with. Phyllis Rackin's Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles (Cornell University Press, 1990) was very important. Especially it delineated the ways in which the history plays theatrically complicate the received history of the chronicles. And so, of course, was Stephen Greenblatt's work. Stephen's elegantly formulated sense of the "mutual permeability of the literary and the historical" brilliantly complicated for all of us the distinction between foreground and background, but at the time I was writing, he had (most …