Douglas Bruster

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

An ornately designed logo printed on Shakespeare’s works suggests an earlier rise to prominence than previously thought, according to a UT professor.

English professor Douglas Bruster said his research shows that Shakespeare created a type of brand and gained recognition from his peers earlier in his career through an ornate design that Bruster refers to as “Lady 8.” The logo depicts a female face, birds and leaves and appears on the title pages of the poems “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece.”

The design previously appeared only on the inside pages of books and often accompanied the names of aristocrats, Bruster said.

“Getting such a sumptuous image on your title page may have said, to Elizabethan readers, that something quite elegant, and important, was inside these books,” Bruster said.

English sophomore Taylor Moore said Bruster’s findings confirm what she has always thought and heard about Shakespeare.

“He had to work extremely hard to overcome class and educational boundaries to situate himself as a respected writer within the Elizabethan era,” Moore said. “The discovery of an ornamental brand, used to signify prestige to readers, just further supports this idea.”

Richard Field, Shakespeare’s friend and publisher, was very deliberate in his use of ornaments and printed the design on the title page of each of Shakespeare’s poems, Bruster said.

Shakespeare lacked the educational background that other writers during his time had, but his poems “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece” cemented his reputation as a leading writer, Bruster said, and the Lady 8 ornament that embellished these poems added a visual luxury to his poetry and came to stand for his achievement.

“The Lady 8 ornament was employed for a few books earlier,” Bruster said. “But when it was used for his first publications, it came to stand for them, their success and eventually the era he represented. It stands as a long-neglected ‘brand’ for a writer who was much more famous — much earlier than we sometimes like to think.”

Moore said Bruster’s research may change the way society views Shakespeare’s rise as a poet.

“I think these findings will force modern readers to think even more about the impact class had on the reception of Shakespeare’s work,” Moore said.

English professor Mary Blockley said Bruster’s research offers new knowledge about the highly acclaimed poet.

“The forging of this link … does prove there is always more to be known about even this best-known of English authors,” Blockley said.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

On Sept. 4, UT journalism professor Robert Jensen penned an op-ed in the Austin Post titled “With Truce at the UT Factory, Time to Face Tough Choices.” In the article, Jensen defended the University “from right-winged attacks on critical thinking” and criticized the University’s close relationship with private industry. Jensen also criticized the pretensions of academia and of “self-indulgent professors” in the humanities that conduct research that “doesn’t much matter.” Jensen raises some important points, but his exaggerated language oversimplifies UT’s educational mission and ignores its potential benefits to the public.  

Jensen is right that a lack of intellectual courage in academia discourages practical solutions to pressing questions. Nevertheless, the best instructors know how to balance complex theory with practical applications. For example, in his article “Neoliberal Multiculturalism: The Remaking of Cultural Rights and Racial Dominance in Central America,” UT anthropology professor Charles Hale explains how the illusion of multiculturalism can be appropriated by institutions such as the World Bank  that grant cultural recognition but also potentially stymie legitimate efforts by indigenous activists at autonmous economic development. The title is a mouthful, and at first glance, the study might seem of little use to many students. But the article smartly explains the risks and rewards of indigenous activists working within the globalized capitalist system. It gives examples of activists who have turned the system to their advantage. Any student working to make change could learn a lesson from Prof. Hale’s research, regardless of how “self-indulgent” Jensen might deem the work.  

Moreover, though the tone of Jensen’s article seems to imply that political activism is a must, professors can critique existing systems without being blatantly militant. For example, English professor Douglas Bruster. As a former research assistant for Bruster, I can vouch for his engagement in the classroom. While he is not particularly partisan, his syllabus puts Shakespeare’s sonnets warning us of the frailty of our temporary monuments side by side with Andrew Marvell’s “An Horatian Ode,” forming a subtle yet effective critique of military ambition and societal acquiescence.

Though Bruster’s research topics are specialized and might seem inapplicable to most, his willingness to take on research assistants from outside his field shows a desire to give others transferable research and critical thinking skills. The key for professors is not to give up their “uninteresting research” but to balance it with rigorous teaching. Professors like Bruster were key in teaching me to develop interdisciplinary connections inside and outside the circles of academic theory.

Jensen’s pessimism regarding this equilibrium is ironic. Having taken one of his classes and consulted him on some of my own research in masculinities, I have no doubt that he strikes this balance between provocative teaching and solid scholarly research. However, by saying that the University is failing its students, Jensen ignores the practical resources available on campus and in the Austin community, such as the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Workers Defense Project (which he had a part in promoting).  Both of these organizations were brought to my attention by UT faculty.

The University is already doing its part to open doors for students. It’s our job to walk through them, no matter how frustrated that makes Jensen. 

Knoll is a first-year master’s student in Latin American studies from Dallas.

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

The words of William Shakespeare might be in more places than you think. 

This month, English professor Douglas Bruster wrote “Shakespearean Spellings and Handwriting in the Additional Passages Printed in the 1602 Spanish Tragedy.” In the article, he argues that the author who wrote “Sir Thomas More” was also the author of 325 lines that were added to Thomas Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy” approximately 10 years after it was written. Bruster argues this based on his observation of certain spelling variations and handwriting features that the two works share.

Bruster said his research came from years of scholars’ work on the texts, and the more he researched, the more he realized that some of the lines in “The Spanish Tragedy” were a rough transmission.

English graduate student Maley Thompson said she has been a teaching assistant for Bruster and has worked closely with him on her master’s report.

Thompson said she thinks that Bruster’s insight is ingenious; however, she said she can understand the opposition to his argument. She said one of the sets of handwriting in “Sir Thomas More” is referred to in academic circles as Hand D.

“You have to believe that Shakespeare was Hand D to believe that the handwriting from that document can be used as evidence for spelling variations in ‘The Spanish Tragedy,’” Thompson said. “I am not entirely convinced that Shakespeare is Hand D. I want him to be. That fulfills my fantasy of Shakespeare as a moonlighting collaborator.”

English professor Eric Mallin said that he finds Bruster’s work impressive because of the way it adds to the growing body of knowledge being assembled in this field. Mallin said Bruster’s paper “solves” a long-standing textual problem in the additional lines, and the paper can serve as a good model for other research because Bruster’s close reading turned the text into a form of objective data.

Bruster said that he will continue to work in collaboration with Genevieve Smith, ecology, evolution and behavior graduate student, focusing specifically on finding the chronological order and years that Shakespeare wrote his works.

Thompson said that she is currently helping Bruster and other scholars anthologize the newest compilation of the complete works of Shakespeare called “Bankside Shakespeare,” which will be published in 2016. As with the two previous editions of the compilation, the “Bankside Shakespeare” will include the additions ascribed to Shakespeare in “Sir Thomas More.” But this edition will have something new: For the first time, it will contain the additional passages of “The Spanish Tragedy.”

“The 38 or so plays that we have [from Shakespeare] are an inexhaustible resource, but people always want more,” Mallin said. “If there were, for instance, undiscovered recordings from the Beatles, Stones or Sex Pistols, I suspect that music historians, and more than a few fans, would want to hear them.”