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LIU Post Professor Rediscovers “Lost” Shakespeare Masterpiece


Stephanie Koithan,Internal Communications Coordinator
LIU Post, Long Island University

James BednarzIn his new book Shakespeare and the Truth of Love: The Mystery of "The Phoenix and Turtle", published by Palgrave Macmillan, LIU Post Professor James Bednarz introduces readers to the extraordinary pleasure of reading one of the most beautiful and mysterious poems ever written.  In 1601, at the height of his career, Shakespeare published a 67-line untitled elegy—now frequently known as "The Phoenix and Turtle"—that has regularly been regarded, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Frank Kermode, as one of the most highly prized works in the canon.  Yet none of Shakespeare's masterpieces has been more enthusiastically celebrated while remaining almost entirely unappreciated as "The Phoenix and Turtle," even by those otherwise familiar with his drama and poetry. 

In this meticulously researched study of Shakespeare's "lost" masterpiece, Professor Bednarz explores the oracular vision, mystical ideas, haunting rhythms, and complex lyric structures that make reading it one of the most profound experiences poetry can yield.  He demonstrates how Shakespeare's strategic move to transcend partisan politics in the wake of the Essex Rising culminated in his composition of the first great published metaphysical poem.

"Once in a very long while you come across a book that utterly transforms your understanding of Shakespeare," writes James Shapiro, author of 1599 and Contested Will.  "This is one of those books.  Shakespeare and the Truth of Love is brilliant, elegantly argued, and persuasive."

Catherine Belsey, whose books include Shakespeare in Theory and Practice, notes that here, "Shakespeare's most elusive, compelling, deceptively limpid work has at last found its critic. In this eloquent account, attentive to history but above all to poetry, James Bednarz involves his readers as fellow explorers in a journey towards the heart of the poem's mystery."

James P. Bednarz, Professor of English at LIU Post, has received the Trustees' Award for Excellence in Scholarship and the David Newton Award for Excellence in Teaching. The author of Shakespeare and the Poets' War (Columbia UP, 2001), he has published widely on early modern drama and poetry.

Posted 05/16/2012

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