Henry Norman Hudson and the Origins of American Shakespeare Studies


In this essay, I examine Henry Norman Hudson, an understudied yet pivotal figure in the emergence of Shakespeare studies as a discrete and institutionalized academic discipline in the United States. Professionalizing Shakespeare studies in the late nineteenth century, I argue, entailed considerable conflict and negotiation between two methodological approaches—aesthetic humanism and scientific philology—and two modes of professional comportment—the gentlemanly man-of-letters and the credentialed research specialist. Hudson helped bridge this scholarly rift by disseminating his humanist ideas in erudite scholarly editions that encouraged careful reading and analysis, offering at least the semblance of objectivity that placated the new literary professional while still appealing to students and other nonspecialists. Finally, I show that the methodological tensions that Hudson illuminated have become a consistent feature of professional scholarship and continue, even today, to cast a shadow over the discipline.