Author to discuss Shakespearean sonnets in upcoming convocation
David Mikics, John and Rebecca Moores Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Houston, will give a convocation address, “‘Like an Unperfect Actor’: Shakespeare the Fierce Player in His Sonnets” at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26 in the Vahlkamp Theater.
“Professor Mikics will connect Shakespeare’s sonnets to his plays, showing how in the sonnets Shakespeare relies on the image of himself as an actor and plays with the difference between an actor and an author,” says Mark Rasmussen, Centre English professor and chair of the humanities program.
“I’ll be talking about Shakespeare the love poet and Shakespeare the actor. He was an actor for his company, and often acted in his own plays,” Mikics says. “What do these two roles have to do with each other?”
Recently, Mikics co-authored “The Art of the Sonnet,” which will be available for purchase and signing after the convocation. The book takes an in-depth look at the poetic form and its usage over the past 400 years.
“I think the new book on sonnets is great,” says Stacey Peebles, Centre assistant professor of English, who worked with Mikics at the University of Houston. “It’s always wonderful for students — and everyone else — to see that writing can be intelligent and sophisticated at the same time that it’s engaging, accessible and clear.”
During the convocation, Mikics will also discuss the central focus of Shakespeare’s poetry — love.
“I’ll talk about why Shakespeare’s sonnets are the strangest love poetry ever written,” Mikics says. “Why doesn’t love poetry — including Shakespeare’s sonnets — make us curious about what the beloved is like? We would give a great deal to be able to spend a few hours with Hamlet or Cleopatra. But we have absolutely no desire to know Shakespeare’s young man or his dark lady, the two beloveds in the sonnets. Why not? Is lyric poetry just not devoted to the mystery of other people’s personalities the way plays and novels are?”
During his visit to campus, Mikics will visit several classes, including Lisa Williams’ Introduction to Poetry class. His visit will coincide with students’ challenge to write sonnets of their own.
“We’re looking forward to discussing several sonnets with him, and to hearing what he can tell us about some of the challenges of writing today in a form with such a rich and impressive history,” Williams says.
Peebles says Mikics is a well-rounded researcher, and although his most recent work focuses on Shakespearean sonnets, he has written about a wide array of other writers and literary genres.
“David stands out as a real Renaissance man — he teaches everything from Genesis to contemporary poetry, and has written books on Spenser and Milton, Emerson and Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, and literary terminology,” says Peebles.“Students at the University of Houston always appreciated that David could speak knowledgeably about their interests — whatever they might be! — and I hope that Centre students will enjoy his visit for the same reasons.”