Martha Tuck Rozett

Professor and Collins Fellow

PhD The University of Michigan                                                                                                                     

Shakespeare, Renaissance Literature, Contemporary Historical Fiction, Jewish Studies

Professor Martha Rozett has taught at the University at Albany since 1973.  Her areas of interest are Shakespeare, including the teaching of Shakespeare, Shakespeare appropriations and offshoots, the literature of the English Renaissance, and Contemporary Fiction, particularly the New Historical Fiction.  She also teaches undergraduate literature courses for the Judaic Studies program.

Publications include: THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION AND THE EMERGENCE OF ELIZABETHAN TRAGEDY (1984), TALKING BACK TO SHAKESPEARE (1994), CONSTRUCTING A WORLD: SHAKESPEARE’S ENGLAND AND THE NEW HISTORICAL FICTION (2003) and WHEN PEOPLE WROTE LETTERS: A FAMILY CHRONICLE (2011).

Taking its title from Umberto Eco's postscript to The Name of the Rose, the novel that inaugurated the New Historical Fiction in the early 1980s, Constructing a World is an account of the way Shakespeare, Marlowe, Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, and their con­temporaries have been depicted by such writers as Anthony Burgess, George Garrett, Patricia Finney, Barry Unsworth, and Rosalind Miles. Innovative historical novels written during the past two or three decades have transformed the genre, producing some extraordinary bestsellers as well as less widely read serious fiction.  The book explores the defining traits of innovative historical fiction, drawing attention to the metacommentary contained in “Afterwords” or "Historical Notes"; the imaginative reconstruction of the diction and mentality of the past; the way Shakespearean phrases, names, and themes are appropriated; and the counterfactual scenarios writers invent as they reinvent the past.

When People Wrote Letters: A Family Chronicle is a tale told through wonderfully witty and moving letters, photographs, clippings and pamphlets, excerpts from an unpublished autobiography and from a family history narrative, along with other saved objects.  The main characters are Betty and Edith Stedman, the author’s mother and great aunt aunt, two eloquent and adventurous women whose relationship serves as the book’s central narrative.  Their travels, and the travels of other family members, take the reader from 19th and early twentieth century New England, to Key West in the 1830s, to the Minnesota Territories in the 1860s, to France during World War I, to small towns in Texas and to China in the 1920s, to Spain in the early 1930s, and across America during World War II.

When People Wrote Letters is also an account of Edith Stedman’s extraordinary career during the early years of medical social work, and a love story in which the religious and cultural differences between New England Episcopalians and New York Jews threaten to disrupt the author’s parents’ romance in the 1940s.  And finally, it is about how family chronicles emerge in piecemeal fashion from the objects and documents people save and pass on.

 

Recent Graduate Courses: 

The New Historical Fiction

Marlowe, Shakespeare and the Challenges of Biographical Speculation

Shakespeare:  Sources and Afterlife