The humanities are currently experiencing what’s been called a ‘material turn’ that is in some ways comparable to the linguistic turn that animated the academy half a century ago. Then it was language that commanded attention, and appeared to constitute a primary ‘reality’; now the focus is on physical objects, and what they can tell us about the world in which we live. Within certain humane disciplines – art history, archaeology, museum studies – objects have always loomed large, and it is therefore not surprising that a leading figure in the present field should be the distinguished director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, whose brilliant study, A History of the World in 100 Objects (2011), has deservedly won both popular and scholarly acclaim.
Things, Things, Things
A material turn in Shakespeare studies
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Ian Donaldson is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is General Editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (2012), and author of Ben Jonson: A Life (2011). He was the Oxford theatre reviewer for The Guardian (London) for a decade.
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