Lecture on Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar" by Kristine Johanson, Assistant Professor of English Renaissance Literature and Culture, University of Amsterdam.
Julius Caesar presents a political cycle powered by a rhetoric of nostalgia, and the play concerns itself with how memory and language shape that cycle of history. Nostalgia and the idea of cyclical history are inter-related: in Julius Caesar, nostalgia represents the desire to re-cycle the past by recreating its politics and ideals in the present. Indeed, nostalgia suggests the idea of reclamatio, that what is past can be reclaimed and re-established in the present. It is the romanticization of the past and the hierarchical valuation of it over the present that evokes nostalgia and, in Julius Caesar, turns it into a catalyst in the movement of social history's cycle. Yet even as nostalgia’s use affirms that cycle, so too it is employed to disrupt the idea of a historical “grand narrative.” In the intersection of a rhetoric of nostalgia and a conceptualization of cyclical history, however, the relationship between the individual and the forces of tempus becomes tenuous, a site of interrogation. My analysis explores the play’s use of various strategies to assert the political power of language and to interrogate the role of the individual, rather than that of history’s cycle, in shaping “the times.”
Kristine Johanson joined the English Department at the Universiteit van Amsterdam in August as Assistant Professor of English Renaissance Literature and Culture. She previously taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, NY) and at the University of St. Andrews (St. Andrews, Scotland), where she completed her graduate studies. In edited collections Kristine has published articles on nostalgia and 2 Henry VI; Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Ash Girl; and Percy Shelley’s The Cenci and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. At present, she is completing a scholarly edition of early eighteenth-century adaptations of Shakespeare (Farleigh Dickinson UP, 2013). Her monograph on nostalgia and the idea of “sovereignty in time” in the Renaissance is in development.