Affective Inheritances: A Review Essay




This review article looks at four recent publications on Shakespeare and emotion, exploring recent developments in the field and considering how recent scholars have responded to work by Gail Kern Paster and others. It argues that although the current ‘affective turn’ has in some ways moved away from its medical humanities roots and even at times away from the body, many of these studies can be seen as continuations rather than correctives to her work.

Author Biographies

Lesel Dawson, Bristol University

Lesel Dawson ( is a senior lecturer at in the department of English at Bristol University, who specializes in 16th- and 17th- century English literature and the history of emotions, medicine, and gender. She is the author of Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern Literature (OUP, 2008) and is on the board of directors for Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. She is co-editing Revenge and Gender from Classical to Early Modern Literature (EUP, forthcoming) and is currently researching early modern ideas about vision, loss, and shame.

Eric Langley, University College London

Eric Langley ( is a lecturer in the department of English at University College London. He published Narcissism and Suicide in the Works of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries in 2009 with OUP. He has published on topics including Renaissance erotica, friendship essays, atomism, and Montaigne’s digressive tendencies. His second ongoing monograph – entitled Ill Communications: Contagious Sympathies in Shakespeare – considers the influence of the period’s evolving scientific conceptions of disease transmission and contagion on its literary output.


Ronda Arab, Michelle M. Dowd, and Adam Zucker (eds.). <i>Historical Affects and the Early Modern Theater</i>. Routledge Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies. New York and London: Routledge, 2015. Pp 260 + x.
Richard Meek and Erin Sullivan (eds.). <i>The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries</i>. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015. Pp 276 + xi.
R. S. White, Mark Houlahan, and Katrina O’Loughlin (eds.). <i>Shakespeare and Emotions: Inheritances, Enactments, Legacies</i>. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Pp xii + 270.
Steven Mullaney. <i>The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare</i>. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2015. Pp x + 231.






Review Essay