Dr Christopher Crosbie
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Christopher Crosbie specializes in Shakespeare and other dramatists of the English Renaissance. Particularly interested in the ways in which classical and early modern philosophies find expression on the popular stage, Dr. Crosbie has published articles on Shakespeare and his contemporaries in journals such as Shakespeare Quarterly, English Literary Renaissance, Renaissance Papers, Renascence, and Arthuriana. He has received the Martin Stevens Award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies from the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society (2015) and the J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize from the Shakespeare Association of America (2008).
His first book, Revenge Tragedy and Classical Philosophy in the Age of Shakespeare: Shaping Retribution on the Early Modern Stage, examines early modern revenge tragedies against philosophical traditions not commonly associated with them. This wide-ranging study reveals the influence of Aristotelian faculty psychology on The Spanish Tragedy, the Aristotelian ethical mean on Titus Andronicus, Lucretian atomism on Hamlet, Galenic pneumatics on Antonio's Revenge, and Epictetian Stoicism on The Duchess of Malfi. Through new reception histories for each philosophy, this book examines how these diverse classical theories – each in its own manner concerned with the last waypoint between immateriality and materiality – shape revenge narratives on the stage. No early modern writer could see the vegetative soul, the ethical mean, the infinitesimally small atom, the ebb and flow of the most rarified pneuma, or the hidden recesses of the Stoic will. Yet the writers studied in this project treat these concepts as ontological realities that structure the ways their characters think. Early modern dramatists persistently tether revenge into these ontological frameworks in order to render the final retributive act as fitting – even beyond overt appeals to audience sympathy – within their fictive worlds. In doing so, Shakespeare and his contemporaries not only provide more substantive ground for retribution than might be found in appeals to personal grievance alone. They also recuperate the immediacy such otherwise distanced philosophies or theoretical abstractions can hold for the suddenly marginalized or dispossessed.
By discovering within these plays the subtle shaping presence of rich philosophical doctrines – each with a lineage and early modern commentary tradition of its own – this book reveals how, theatrically, the very atmospheres of revenge tragedies work on audiences in more extensive, intellectually-rich, and conditioning ways than previously appreciated. At the same time, this project also reveals how, as much as revenge dramatists tap into preexisting traditions, they also stretch those traditions to new, often politically or socially radical ends, in effect doing philosophy by testing out the implications of a given theoretical abstraction by placing it within the crucible of extreme circumstances.
An avid theatergoer, Dr. Crosbie focuses his classes in equal measure on the philosophical contexts and performative possibilities of early modern drama.
"Shakespeare, Intention, and the Ethical Force of the Involuntary," The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Philosophy, ed. Craig Bourne and Emily Caddick Bourne (New York: Routledge, forthcoming).
"Refashioning Fable through the Baconian Essay: De sapientia veterum and Mythologies of the Early Modern Natural Philosopher," The Essay: Forms and Transformations, ed. Dorothea Flothow, Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, and Markus Oppolzer (Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter, 2017).
"The Longleat Manuscript Reconsidered: Shakespeare and the Sword of Lath." English Literary Renaissance 44.2 (2014): 221-240. (Recipient of the 2015 Martin Stevens Award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies from the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society)
Selected Awards / Distinctions
ENG 558 Revenge, Reconciliation, and Redemption in Shakespearean Drama
ENG 588 Shakespeare's Monsters: Marvels, Wonders, Villains
ENG 582 Early Modern Revenge Tragedy
ENG 588 Shakespeare Among the Philosophers
ENG 498 Shakespeare's Aristotle
ENG 486 Early Shakespeare: Authorship, Ambition, and Authority
ENG 487 Late Shakespeare: Betrayal and Banishment in Shakespearean Drama
ENG 209 Introduction to Shakespeare: Protean Shakespeares
HON 202 Shakespeare and Philosophy (University Honors Program)
HON 293 Early Modern Revenge Tragedy (University Honors Program)
Folger Institute Executive Committee, Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Liaison, North Carolina State University
Secretary-Treasurer, Southeastern Renaissance Conference
Founder, Shakespeare at State & Friends of Shakespeare, NC State University
Extension and Community Engagement
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- PhD in English from Rutgers University, 2007