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Heirs to Shakespeare

Reinventing the Bard in Young Adult Literature

By Megan Isaac

One of the best ways for modern readers to develop an appreciation for Shakespeare is by discovering how frequently his works are reinvented by today’s young adult authors. Heirs to Shakespeare puts the Bard into conversation with these authors and helps bring Renaissance drama to life. This innovative approach to curriculum design bridges the artificial gap between canonical authors and contemporary writers. At the same time, it demonstrates how reading for personal pleasure and reading Shakespeare can be complementary goals.

Unlike other books that "pair" classic and contemporary books, this...

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One of the best ways for modern readers to develop an appreciation for Shakespeare is by discovering how frequently his works are reinvented by today’s young adult authors. Heirs to Shakespeare puts the Bard into conversation with these authors and helps bring Renaissance drama to life. This innovative approach to curriculum design bridges the artificial gap between canonical authors and contemporary writers. At the same time, it demonstrates how reading for personal pleasure and reading Shakespeare can be complementary goals.

Unlike other books that "pair" classic and contemporary books, this one provides readings and specific analysis of the Shakespearean influence underpinning many young adult novels. Important features include:

  • detailed reading of young adult novels with significant Shakespearean features, including books by Katherine Paterson, Julius Lester, Lois Duncan, and Ann McCaffrey
  • explicit analysis of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, The Tempest, and young adult novels that revise and expand upon these plays
  • detailed readings of historical fiction for young adults with discussion of how these novels relate to Shakespeare and the theatrical world
  • background material on young adult life in the Renaissance
  • analysis and suggestions on incorporating adaptations of Shakespeare into the classroom
  • forthright discussion of the difficulties of teaching controversial plays like Othello and The Merchant of Venice.
Readers will discover the inescapable intertextual connections between many modern young adult novels and Shakespeare’s plays. They will gain a practical and concrete understanding of how modern authors talk about and respond to classic literature through the processes of revision and reinterpretation. Most of all, they will see why the works of Shakespeare are as relevant today as ever and why young adult novels can be as "significant" as Shakespeare.

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