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January 25, 2012

Professor Emerita June Schlueter Depicts Unique View of Shakespeare’s London in New Book

June Schlueter, Charles A. Dana Professor Emerita of English and former provost of the College, has made a breakthrough in literary scholarship with her book The Album Amicorum and the London of Shakespeare’s Time.

June (second from left) and Paul Schlueter (second from right) speak with Jay Parini '70 (right), who presented the 2009 Paul and June Schlueter Lecture in the Art and History of the Book.

June (second from left) and Paul Schlueter (second from right) speak with Jay Parini '70 (right), who presented the 2009 Paul and June Schlueter Lecture in the Art and History of the Book.

Published by the British Library and distributed in the United States by the University of Chicago Press, this is the first full-length study in English of the album amicorum, or friendship book. It secures the place of this genre as an insightful but under-examined area in the study of early modern culture.

“The album amicorum began in German universities, where students collected autographs of fellow students and professors, and flourished in German-speaking and Dutch-speaking Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries,” Schlueter explains. “Typically, a contributor, at the album owner’s invitation, would inscribe a motto, a dedication, and a signature, along with date and place, and, often, have his coat of arms painted on the page. As the form evolved, watercolors of emblems, costumes, objects, and scenes, reflecting personal interests and travel, were commissioned by album owners and contributors.”

The albums’ inscriptions and illustrations were often by significant scholars or professional artists of the time, Schlueter notes. Now housed in archives throughout Europe, the albums “stand as a Who’s Who of the early modern period,” she says.

Schlueter focuses on the many traces of Shakespeare’s London contained in albums, created as scholars traveled to London and recorded their impressions and their encounters with Londoners. The selections provide a perspective on the culture, politics, religion, economics, and entertainment of the late 16th and 17th centuries and paint a historical picture of early modern England.

  • Schlueter will speak about her book 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the Gendebien Room of Skillman Library. The event is sponsored by the Friends of Skillman Library and the Medieval, Renaissance, and Early Modern Studies Program.

In another recent scholarly breakthrough, Schlueter and her husband, Paul Schlueter, discovered five unpublished poems by Mary Sidney Herbert (1561-1621), Countess of Pembroke, in a manuscript of English poems previously unnoticed by scholars. The manuscript, a verse miscellany created about 1641, was found by the Schlueters in the Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek in Kassel, Germany.

In effect, the discovery substantially enlarges the canon of extant original works by the most esteemed female poet of Elizabethan England. In an essay in The Times Literary Supplement (July 23, 2010), they discuss their reasons for believing that they have discovered previously unknown works by the celebrated poet. The Schlueters note that the canon of extant original works by Mary Sidney consists only of three or four poems, none written later than around 1599. However, they write, citing remarks made by Sidney’s editors, “[t]here is little doubt that the Countess wrote more than these few poems.” In fact, comments by contemporaries of Sidney suggest that she produced a substantial body of work during the last two decades of her life. But, whatever the reason for the loss of these additional writings, no other poems by Sidney have surfaced until the Schlueters’ discovery of the Kassel document.

“If we are correct in attributing five poems in that miscellany to Mary Sidney,” they write, “these would be the only extant examples of the later work of Elizabethan England’s most highly regarded female poet.”

June and Paul Schlueter have collaborated on four edited volumes, The English Novel: Twentieth Century Criticism, vol. 2: Twentieth Century Novelists (1982), Modern American Literature (Supplement 2) (1983), An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers (1988, 1999), and Francis A. March: Selected Writings of the First Professor of English (2005).

A member of the Lafayette faculty from 1977 to 2008, June Schlueter holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Her previous books include Metafictional Characters in Modern Drama (1979), The Plays and Novels of Peter Handke (1981), Arthur Miller (with James K. Flanagan, 1987), Reading Shakespeare in Performance: King Lear (with James P. Lusardi ’55, 1991), and Dramatic Closure: Reading the End (1995).

Her edited works include Feminist Rereadings of Modern American Drama (1989), Modern American Drama: The Female Canon (1990), Approaches to Teaching Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (with Enoch Brater, 1991), Critical Essays: The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1996), and Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (with Paul Nelsen ’69, 2006).

The author of many essays and reviews on a range of early modern literature and culture and on modern drama, Schlueter served as co-editor of Shakespeare Bulletin, an international journal of Shakespeare in performance, with Lafayette English professor James P. Lusardi ’55 from 1982 to 2003.

As Lafayette’s provost from 1993 to 2006, June Schlueter oversaw many advancements in the College’s academic program. In 2005, the College dedicated a superb Tiffany stained-glass window in honor of her and Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55, who served as Lafayette’s 15th president from 1993 to 2005. The window depicts the death in 1586 of Sir Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney’s brother, at the Battle of Zutphen. Manufactured for Lafayette in 1899 by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co., America’s foremost art-window manufacturer, it is installed in the Rothkopf Reading Room in Skillman Library.

Paul Schlueter’s books include The Novels of Doris Lessing (1973) and Shirley Ann Grau (1981), and his edited works include A Small Personal Voice: Essays, Reviews, Interviews by Doris Lessing (1974). He has published many essays on modern literature in scholarly journals and collections, as well as in such reference works as the Encyclopaedia Britannica and various volumes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. He has also published extensively as a reviewer of books, film, drama, and classical music. Schlueter taught college English for many years before turning to research, writing, and editing. He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University.

The Rare Book Room in Skillman Library is named in honor of the Schlueters, as is an endowment fund that supports a lecture series on the art and history of the book as well as acquisitions for Skillman’s Special Collections.

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