Julia Reinhard Lupton
Fellow: Awarded 2013
Field of Study: English Literature
Competition: US & Canada
Consistent themes in my work include the continued urgency, resilience, and reparative virtues of Shakespearean drama; the capacity of the humanities to provide occasions for creative citizenship and embodied thought; the household as a theater of sociability; and religion as problem and promise in liberalism. I am committed to a broadly humanistic pedagogy that addresses students as thinkers, makers, and doers. My teaching pursues intimate and serious work with texts in the frameworks provided by instructional technology, new media, and performance. I see service to the campus, the community, and the profession as a necessary good.
For over two decades, the center of my work has been the study of Shakespeare, whose plays I read in order to stage a series of conversations with other fields and discourses, including psychoanalysis, religion, political theory, and design studies. In my most recent book, Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life (University of Chicago Press, 2011), I use the writings of Hannah Arendt in order to take up a series of scripts in Shakespeare that solicit the exercise of public virtue out of the routines of domestic care, including hospitality, consent, friendship, animal husbandry, and housekeeping. Such scenes, I argue, are inherently dramatic insofar as they are governed by social roles, require an audience, are subject to the hazards of live action, and have the capacity to bring something new into the world of human experience.
While writing Thinking with Shakespeare, I also wrote two trade books with my sister, graphic designer and design educator Ellen Lupton. D.I.Y. Kids (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) introduces design techniques as well as the design professions to young people through projects and interviews. Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things (St. Martins Press, 2009) is a series of comic inquiries into the company we keep with objects.
My proposed project for the Guggenheim Foundation, “Shakespeare Dwelling: Habitation, Hospitality, Design,” brings together these design interests with my long-standing commitment to the study of Shakespeare as a resource for thinking and living. In the theater of daily life, how do the rituals and provisions of habitation and hospitality administer our creaturely needs for sustenance, refuge, and the company of other people? Under what circumstances does the oikos or household reveal its public dimensions, and for whom? And how does Shakespearean drama use objects and images to fill out life worlds, reset scenes and moods, and help establish the outlook of characters and their capacities for action? This project uses the concept of “dwelling” to comprehend the forms of taking and making shelter by which we organize and acknowledge as well as disavow our embeddedness within open systems striated by environmental flows, the relentless rhythms of exertion, and the contingency of human action. In Shakespeare’s plays, dwelling unfolds between habitation (the activities associated with household management and kinship care) and hospitality (the ritualized greeting of strangers that makes dinner into drama). Because habitation and hospitality are intersubjective, theatrical, and never guaranteed, they can flower into action in the fullest dramatic sense of self-disclosing gestures whose unpredictable consequences have the power to transform subjects and remake situations. Great halls and hovels, dovecotes and sheepcotes, mountain cells and seaside shelters, funeral monuments and chapel-galleries, are some of the distinctive spaces in which Shakespearean characters gather to test their connections with each other and their worlds, sometimes to create new instances of culture and community, and sometimes to destroy persons, crush relationships, and annihilate worlds.
In addition to my academic and trade writing, I am a committed teacher and program organizer. In 1997, I founded Humanities Out There, an educational partnership between UCI’s School of Humanities and local schools; I directed the program for seven years, and am proud to say that it is now in its fourteenth year. I have also directed UCI’s Program in Jewish Studies and I have served as Interim Chair of the Department of English. I serve as a dramaturge for UCI’s New Swan Summer Shakespeare Festival. During the summer of 2013, I am teaching a seminar at the School for Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, on “Dwelling / Telling / Selling: Contemporary Design Topographies.”
As I expand both my study and my teaching of Shakespeare in response to new areas of inquiry (such as architecture and design) and new audiences (theatergoers, community members, general readers), I continue to wonder anew at Shakespearean drama’s ability to challenge us as maps of lost worlds and blueprints for future ones. Whether I am reading seventeenth-century cookbooks, hanging out in the drama department, or heading to the local synagogue or senior center to lecture on Lear, I find myself participating in a Shakespeare Commons, an open set of practices and insights produced by acts of performing, translating, adapting, teaching, and talking about Shakespeare and his worlds.