On 6 August 2016, Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity opens at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. Austen scholar Janine Barchas (University of Texas at Austin) and theatre historian Kristina Straub (Carnegie Mellon University) are co-curating the exhibition. Barchas and Straub examine the parallel two-hundred-year cycles of celebrity of literary giants William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. The exhibition compares eighteenth-century Bardolatry to today’s Cult of Jane, highlighting celebrations and public spectacles of these authors’ works. Examples include Georgian-era actor David Garrick‘s (1717-1779) Jubilee and modern-day “bonnet dramas” like BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Two hundred years after her death, Austen’s place in today’s material culture echoes the production of Shakespeare souvenirs during the eighteenth century, two hundred years after Shakespeare’s death. The exhibition also juxtaposes derivative works, such as Nahum Tate‘s (1652-1715) The History of King Lear (1681) and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009). The surprisingly similar afterlives of Shakespeare and Austen speak to the cyclical rejuvenation of these cultural and literary icons. Commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the 199th anniversary of Austen’s death with this exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2016.
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