Fairfield Alumni Share Stage With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

Fairfield Alumni Share Stage With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

English alumni and students at the Pequot Library in Southport, Conn.

Fairfield Shakespeare panelists at the Pequot Library (l-r): Annie Marino '24, Kayla Sullivan '20, Diallo Simon-Ponte '20, and Aarushi Vijay '22.

English major alumni and students spoke on a Shakespeare panel with renowned historian Stephen Greenblatt, PhD, at the Pequot Library.

On October 5, the Pequot Library in Southport, Conn., invited patrons to discover how Shakespeare became the most famous writer in the English language, during an opening celebration that featured co-curators of their new exhibition, How William Became Shakespeare: Four Hundred Years of the First Folio: Cecily Dyer, special collections librarian, and Shannon Kelley, PhD, director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program and associate professor of English at Fairfield University.

The evening began with a guided walkthrough of the exhibition and a moderated discussion about the future of Shakespeare studies with alumni of the Fairfield University’s English Department: Diallo Simon-Ponte ’20, Kayla Sullivan ’20, and Aarushi Vijay ’22. The panel was moderated by Fairfield University student Annie Marino ’24.

The panelists spoke about the difficulties and rewards found in Shakespeare’s work and his complicated past, and they imagined possible futures in college and K-12 education through critical readings, new performances, and Black, Caribbean, and South Asian adaptations. More than 100 patrons registered to attend the event.

Then, a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Stephen Greenblatt, PhD, took place. Dr. Greenblatt is the Harvard University John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities and author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, as well as Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2012 for Will in the World, as well as the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Professor Emeritus Orin Grossman, PhD, who attended the event at the Pequot, commented, “All of the panelists spoke eloquently about the value and power of Shakespeare as well as the cultural issues diverse students face when tackling the great playwright. I was immensely impressed by the sophistication and subtlety of their various points of view.”

Panel moderator Annie Marino ’24, a senior majoring in communication and English Literature from New York City, also worked with Dr. Kelley over the summer at the Pequot to research and develop the exhibition. The pair worked with texts in the Pequot Library's special collection, one of which was a rare (fewer than 235 copies in the world) copy of Shakespeare's First Folio or first published collection of his plays.  

“This experience has certainly exceeded all my expectations, and I’m so glad I got to work with Dr. Kelley on it,” she said. “Research in gender is very important to me.  I have always loved Shakespeare, but it’s essential that we point out the structural misogyny in his work while still recognizing how amazing the plays truly are, and that’s exactly why [we did this] library exhibition and launch panel.”

Dr. Kelley, who has taught Shakespeare at Fairfield for 14 years, said “I have found that young adults understand his plays now more than ever, especially his treatment of relationships, parents, gender, class, sexuality, race, and religious differences. Fairfield's Shakespeare courses fill within the first day of registration. Students such as Annie Marino continue to teach and surprise me, and I’m grateful to all of my Fairfield students for their enthusiasm and open-minded approach to 400-year-old stories.”

Fairfield’s Humanities Institute and Southport’s Pequot Library funded this celebration of Shakespeare. 

Dr. Kelley continued, "We look forward to many more Pequot Library collaborations, and we are deeply grateful to the Humanities Institute, the Honors Program, and the English Department, for their generous support.”

Other upcoming events in conjunction with the exhibition:

“Ophelia, Juliet, Cleopatra: Shakespeare’s Leading Ladies”
Thursday, October 26, 6-7 p.m.

Some of Shakespeare’s greatest parts were written for women: Ophelia, Juliet, and Cleopatra.  Join Dr. Kelley, director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, and her college students at Fairfield University for an immersive audience workshop focused on these three women. Together and in small groups they’ll read dialogue, workshop scenes, and consider different viewpoints on the power, agency, and strength of these famous women.  All ages welcome. 

“Trials of True Courtesy in The Merchant of Venice
Thursday, November 16, 6-7 p.m.

Join us for an academic talk by Patricia Wareh, PhD, associate professor of English at Union College, who will read from her forthcoming book on Shakespeare’s 17th century readers and emerging ideas on the importance of courtesy, racial difference, and religious identity. Presented with generous support from the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University. All ages welcome.

Learn more at the Pequot Libary's website.

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