RSA 2018 The Bard's Bookshelf: Shakespeare's Use of Sources

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Claire Sommers/The Graduate Center, CUNY
contact email: 

William Shakespeare’s oeuvre is comprised of multiple forms, including the play, the sonnet, and the narrative poem and spans a wide variety of genres, including comedy, tragedy, history, epic, and romance. Because of his contributions to the western canon, modern scholarship tends to focus on Shakespeare the writer. Yet, we often forget another aspect of his literary life: Shakespeare the reader. In crafting his work, Shakespeare borrows heavily from Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance literature of all genres, including poetry, epic, drama, and prose fiction, and incorporates references to mythological, religious, rhetorical and philosophical texts throughout his works. While Shakespeare draws plots, characters, themes, and allusions from a wide array of sources, he nevertheless combines and alters them to create a work that is entirely his own.


This panel will explore Shakespeare’s use of and engagement with various sources in his poetry and drama. Possible approaches include:


  • Shakespeare’s use of Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance literature and philosophy
  • Shakespeare’s allusions to classical mythology and Biblical subject matter
  • Shakespeare’s alterations to his source materials
  • Shakespeare’s reading of his source materials
  • Shakespeare’s historicism in approaching his sources
  • Shakespeare’s transposition of source material from other forms and media
  • Shakespeare’s engagement with questions of genre
  • Shakespeare’s incorporation of historical texts and documents
  • Shakespeare’s inclusion of sources as a form of critique
  • Shakespeare’s experience with non-English sources
  • Shakespeare’s integration of sources as a means of examining his own work


Please submit a 150 word abstract and 300 word bio to Claire Sommers ( by June 1st.