Boehrer, Bruce Thomas
BOEHRER, Bruce Thomas
ADDRESSES: Office—406 Williams Bldg., Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4390. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, professor of English. Visiting professor, Beaver College and University of Alabama.
AWARDS, HONORS: University Teaching Award, 1992; University Developing Scholar Award, 1994; University Teaching Incentive Program Award, 1994; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship; Folger Shakespeare Library fellowship.
Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England: Literature, Culture, Kinship, and Kingship, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1992.
The Fury of Men's Gullets: Ben Jonson and the Digestive Canal, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1997.
Shakespeare among the Animals: Nature and Society in the Drama of Early Modern England, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2002.
Parrot Culture: Our 2,500-Year-Long Fascination with the World's Most Talkative Bird, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.
Contributor of chapters to books, including The Black-well Companion to Shakespeare: The Poems, Problem Comedies, and Late Plays, edited by Jean Howard and Richard Dutton, Blackwell Press, 2003; and The Culture of the Horse: Status, Discipline, and Identity in the Early Modern World, edited by Karen Raber and Treva Tucker, Palgrave, 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Criticism, Modern Philology, and ELH. Founding editor, Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Editing A Cultural History of Animals in the Renaissance (1400–1600), third volume of A Cultural History of Animals, for Palgrave.
SIDELIGHTS: Bruce Thomas Boehrer's Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England: Literature, Culture, Kinship, and Kingship, takes a look at the role of incest during the infamous reign of England's King Henry VIII, who was married six times. Henry's kingship ended not only in a much disputed succession, but it left people questioning the very nature of monarchy. According to David Starkey of the Times Literary Supplement, Boehrer's book implies that any modern-day child abuser who takes perverse pride in being king of his family is akin to Henry VIII and his treatment of wives and relations. Starkey also claimed that Boehrer disregards prevalent literature and fails to cite evidence that Elizabeth (daughter of Henry) was sexually abused by her stepparents (other relations of King Henry).
W. Thomas MacCary, writing in Shakespeare Quarterly was puzzled by evidence that Boehrer either used or avoided to illustrate incest in the English monarchy. MacCary stated, for example, that Boehrer discusses the monarchy's fear of genetic contamination from sources that were too low in society. However, MacCary liked the book because "it is concise; it is theoretically rich and subtle; it restores to our attention texts we do not often confront." William Kerrigan, reviewing Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England for Renaissance Quarterly, called the work "idiosyncratic and sometimes confusing" and claimed that the author seemed to lean a little too much on the premise that "everything is politically determined."
Boehrer has also published The Fury of Men's Gullets: Ben Johnson and the Digestive Canal, an analysis of the plays and works of the English dramatist Ben Jonson. In England in 1616, Jonson was the first playwright to publish his own collected works. While his material was scorned by contemporaries, T. S. Eliot was among those who saw real merit in Jonson's work. Jonson was particularly interested in eating, drinking, digestion, and elimination, subjects that might seem offensive to later audiences but which were largely a part of everyday life in early England, along with grossly inadequate sewage systems. Jonson also used these as symbols in his writing and was obsessed with the links between these most basic human functions and literature.
Boehrer, according to Terence Hawkes in the London Review of Books, "explores the furthest reaches of Jonson's metaphors of writing as ingestion, digestion and excretion." A reviewer for the Virgina Quarterly Review picked up the eating-writing analogy, stating that Boehrer "puts Jonson's aggressive alimentary discourse through cool analysis rather than grilling him at a high moral temperature." Martin Butler, reviewing The Fury of Men's Gullets in the Times Literary Supplement, praised Boehrer's portrait of Jon-son as "admirably decentred and uninhibited," but pointed out the danger of "marginalization of [Jonson's] ethical investments, the systems of individual and political self-mastery to which he was also attached."
Combining his love of animals with his interest in the cultural history of Britain, Boehrer has also penned two studies about the influence of animals on Renaissance and early modern England in two books: Shakespeare among the Animals: Nature and Society in the Drama of Early Modern England and Parrot Culture: Our 2,500-Year-Long Fascination with the World's Most Talkative Bird. The former work explores how animals were used as metaphors in sixteenth-century English theater and how this reveals a great deal about the culture at the time, while Parrot Culture is also about cultural influences from animals, but it focuses on one case in particular. Here, Boehrer reveals how the popular and intelligent parrot made its way into the English vernacular, art, and pet trade. Unfortunately, the popularity of the parrot also meant that its wild populations began to decline dramatically. Calling Parrot Culture a work that "is equally eclectic and learned" as the author's earlier books, Library Journal critic Henry T. Armistead appreciated this "well-documented and entertaining book." Booklist reviewer Nancy Bent concluded that it will "find a ready audience among the legions of bird aficionados."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Nancy Bent, review of Parrot Culture: Our 2,500-Year-Long Fascination with the World's Most Talkative Bird, p. 1682.
Library Journal, May 1, 2004, Henry T. Armistead, review of Parrot Culture, p. 137.
London Review of Books, May 21, 1998, Terence Hawkes, review of The Fury of Men's Gullets: Ben Johnson and the Digestive Canal, pp. 24-25.
Modern Philology, August, 2000, Jennifer Brady, review of The Fury of Men's Gullets, p. 49.
Renaissance Quarterly, summer, 1994, William Kerrigan, review of Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England: Literature, Culture, Kinship, and Kingship, pp. 430-432; autumn, 1999, David McPherson, review of The Fury of Men's Gullets, p. 929.
Shakespeare Quarterly, winter, 1994, W. Thomas MacCary, review of Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England, pp. 489-490.
Times Literary Supplement, September 18, 1992, David Starkey, review of Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England, pp. 16-17; April 17, 1998, Martin Butler, review of The Fury of Men's Gullets, p. 24.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1998, review of The Fury of Men's Gullets, p. 67.