- Ph.D. English, University of California, Berkeley
- M.St. University of Oxford (Keble College)
Firestone, Floor B, 9 H.9
Rebecca Munson is the Project and Education Coordinator for the CDH, overseeing the planning, development, and day-to-day implementation of all sponsored projects. She also manages the CDH's developing role in graduate education at Princeton. Her background is as a literary scholar, working primarily on Shakespeare and other early modern dramatists and with rare books. She holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia, a Master's from Oxford, and a Ph.D. from Berkeley, all in English literature. Before coming to Princeton, she held postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA, where she was a Fellow in the History of Material Texts, and Emory, where she was a member of the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. She is the founder and director of Common Readers, a digital initiative dedicated to gathering and analyzing annotations in early modern play texts through a custom-designed relational database.
She is working on a related monograph, Breaking Shakespeare: Modularity in Material and Interpretive Practices, which argues that from their inception Shakespeare’s plays have always been experienced, and made sense of, in parts. It explores the implications of modular reading for literary theory, demonstrating how DH methods support and further the aims of established literary critical approaches. With case studies from the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries, Breaking Shakespeare provides a history of partiality that invites analyses of readers’ own ideological positions. It asserts that, in all cases, partiality reveals partiality and that attempts to “fix” Shakespeare merely demonstrate the impossibility of stasis, the fluidity and adaptability of the text, and our reliance on (re)movable parts.
Her dissertation and first book project, Shakespeare in Common, 1603-1660, also centers on reception history, arguing that Shakespeare’s immediate and enduring popularity derives from the productively ambiguous politics of his plays. It argues that, far from either challenging or reproducing ideologies, his plays modeled the process of political engagement itself, forcing audiences to reflect on their own thought processes and to become conscious of themselves as political agents. It posits a crucial link between Shakespeare as the creator of texts that model affective engagement with political problems and his unusual success in the two key cultural institutions—the theater and the press—that facilitated the democratization of the English government. Stretching from the start of King James’s reign in 1603 through the Restoration of Charles II, Shakespeare in Common reclaims the neglected period of 1642-60 (when the theaters were closed and the staging of plays was banned) and places drama at the heart of an historic confluence of “popular” enterprises—theater, publishing, and parliament—that gave rise to a foundational model of civic engagement. It contends that the same ideological structures that made Shakespeare popular in an artistic sense (the growth of the city, the burgeoning capitalist economy, the spread of literacy, the dominance of the printing press) imbricated him in the rise of political popularity and made his plays its agent.
Rebecca’s research interests are concerned with the intersections of drama, political philosophy, book history, and digital methodologies.