Seth Lerer

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage, University of Chicago Press 2018

I’ve written nine books and edited four. Here is a selection, with reviews and links:

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music, and Poetry in the Last Plays

University of Chicago Press, 2018

 

“Seth Lerer ranges widely and brilliantly on Shakespeare’s last plays, bringing them into sharper focus at a moment—like Shakespeare’s own—when the tensions between the aesthetic and the political are palpable. Learned, informed, elegantly argued, and packed with insights, this is truly an ‘elegy of the imagination,’ a deeply absorbing study that will prove invaluable to all who are drawn to these vexing, haunting plays.”

— James Shapiro, author of A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599

 

“Within the much-explored territory of Shakespeare’s late plays, Lerer’s book will hold a place of its own for the richness of its scholarship and for the delicacy and originality of its readings.  Looking closely at how these plays dramatize the power and limits of lyric voice, he manages beautifully to evoke their strange danger, charm, capaciousness, and doubt.”

— Kenneth Gross, author of Shylock Is Shakespeare

 

“Seth Lerer brings to these rich and strange plays, with their contradictory impulses towards topicality, towards the past and towards the beyond, not only a deep knowledge of Jacobean history and culture, but a fine ear. . . . Lerer is alert above all to the cadences of the last plays’ dialogue and to the time-stopping, time confounding moments when their action gives way to song.”

 London Review of Books

Purchase on Amazon: Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music, and Poetry in the Last Plays

 

Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past

Oxford University Press, 2016 

“…you will be hard pressed to find a better model of attentiveness to the matter at hand, of wide-ranging, meticulously observed appreciation, of unpedantic collegial dialogue, of lucid address. … if you want a model for composing a fine short book, you would do well to start with this one. “

–Marshall Brown, Modern Philology

 

“The real pleasure of Lerer’s essay lies in his elegant close readings and his fluid mapping of intertextual pathways. Tradition is a quietly affecting book, not least in the way that it encourages readers to reflect on their own “archives of the self”, and the particular stories that have shaped us along the way.”

–Keith Hopper, TLS 

Purchase on Amazon: Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past 

Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past Oxford University Press, 2016

Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past Oxford University Press, 2016

Children's Literature: A Readers History From Aesop to Harry Potter, University of Chicago Press, 2008

Children’s Literature: A Readers History From Aesop to Harry Potter, University of Chicago Press, 2008

Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter

University of Chicago Press, 2008

 

National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism

Truman Capote Prize in Criticism

 

“Lerer has accomplished something magical. Unlike the many handbooks to children’s literature that synopsize, evaluate, or otherwise guide adults in the selection of materials for children, this work presents a true critical history of the genre. . . . Scholarly, erudite, and all but exhaustive, it is also entertaining and accessible. Lerer takes his subject seriously without making it dull.”

Library Journal(starred review)

 

“There are dazzling chapters on John Locke and Empire, and nonsense, and Darwin, but Lerer’s most interesting chapter focuses on girls’ fiction. . . . A brilliant series of readings.”

—Diane Purkiss, Times Literary Supplement

 

“Lerer’s Olympian survey of more than 2,000 years leaves the reader with a stimulating vision of history. . . . His narrative swells and ebbs like a symphony. . . . To find Pilgrim’s Progress and Weetzie Bat in a single volume is itself a pleasure.”

— Michael Sims, Washington Post Book World

 

Purchase on Amazon: Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language

Columbia University Press, 2007. Revised edition, 2015

 

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lerer is not just a scholar (he’s  . . . the man behind the Teaching Company’s audio and videotape series The History of the English Language); he’s also a fan of English—his passion is evident on every page of this examination of how our language came to sound—and look—as it does and how words came to have their current meanings. He writes with friendly reverence of the masters—Chaucer, Milton, Johnson, Shakespeare, Twain—illustrating through example the monumental influence they had on the English we speak and write today (Shakespeare alone coined nearly 6,000 words). Anecdotes illustrate how developments in the physical world (technological advances, human migration) gave rise to new words and word-forms. With the invention of the telephone, for instance, a neutral greeting was required to address callers whose gender and social rank weren’t known. America minted “hello” (derived from the maritime “ahoy”), and soon Twain enshrined the term in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Whether it’s Lerer’s close examination of the earliest surviving poem in English (the seventh-century Caedmon’s Hymn) or his fresh perspective on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the book percolates with creative energy and will please anyone intrigued by how our richly variegated language came to be

 

“A personal, selective, and impassioned journey through the history of English.”

–Times Higher Education Supplement

 

An unusual linguistic and literary feast.”

–Michigan Quarterly Review

Purchase on Amazon: Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, Columbia University Press, 2007. Revised edition, 2015

In addition to these most recent books, I have published the following:

 

Boethius and Dialogue: Literary Method in the Consolation of Philosophy. Princeton University Press, 1985 

Literacy and Power in Anglo-Saxon Literature. University of Nebraska Press, 1991

Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England. Princeton University Press, 1993. Winner of the Beatrice White Prize of the English Association of Great Britain

Literary History and the Challenge of Philology: The Legacy of Erich Auerbach [as editor]. Stanford University Press, 1996

Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII. Cambridge University Press, 1997

Error and the Academic Self. Columbia University Press, 2002. Winner of the Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association

The Yale Companion to Chaucer [as editor]. Yale University Press, 2006

The Wind in the Willows: An Annotated Edition. Harvard University Press, 2009

Prospero’s Son: Life, Books, Love, and Theater. University of Chicago Press, 2013