Martha Tuck Rozett

Professor Emerita and Collins Fellow

Ph.D., Michigan

Renaissance Literature, Shakespeare Studies

Constructing a World: Shakespeare's England and the New Historical Fiction

Martha Tuck Rozett gracefully handles a great deal of material with economy and precision, at once rehearsing traditional views of the subject while also offering an adventurous review of the con-temporary scene. Though the subject of historical fiction has been a topic of interest for many years, no one to my knowledge has managed to deal so effectively as Rozett does with the postmodern development of what she calls the New Historical Fiction.

- George Garrett, author of Death of the Fox

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, professor Rozett's latest study, provides a guide to the genre's defining characteristics. It also serves as a lively account of the way Shakespeare, Marlowe, Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, and their con-temporaries 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. Shakespearean scholar Martha Tuck Rozett engages in an ongoing conversation about the genre of 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.

Academic Profile

Martha T. Rozett is a professor of English at the University at Albany, SUNY, where she has taught and served in various administrative capacities since 1973. In May 2002 she was named a Collins Fellow, the university’s major award for service. She received a BA in English from Harvard University and a PhD in English from The University of Michigan. Her teaching focuses mainly on Shakespeare and on contemporary historical fiction. She is active in the English department graduate program and regularly teaches graduate seminars on Shakespeare: Sources and Offshoots, Writing and Revision, Teaching Shakespeare, and The New Historical Fiction. Rozett has served as Director of Graduate Studies, MA Advisor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Associate Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts in the course of her career at Albany. Her activities in the Albany community include serving on the Education Committee of Capital Repertory Theatre and on the Board and the Education Committee of Congregation B’nai Shalom, and serving as a judge for the English Speaking Union’s regional Shakespeare competition. She is also a member of the board of Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.

Martha publishes widely on Shakespeare and Shakespeare pedagogy and, more recently, on historical fiction. Her books include THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION AND THE EMERGENCE OF ELIZABETHAN TRAGEDY (1984), TALKING BACK TO SHAKESPEARE (1994) and CONSTRUCTING A WORLD: SHAKESPEARE’S ENGLAND AND THE NEW HISTORICAL FICTION (2003). She also reviews books for Shakespeare Quarterly and performances of Shakespeare plays for Shakespeare Bulletin. She takes an active interest in the teaching of Shakespeare to young people and offers workshops for theatre-related arts-in-education programs in New York City.