Bushnell, Rebecca W. 1952-
BUSHNELL, Rebecca W. 1952-
PERSONAL: Born 1952. Education: Princeton University, Ph.D., 1982.
CAREER: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, lecturer, 1982-84, became assistant professor, 1984, professor of English, 1995—; formerly associate dean of arts and sciences; dean of College of the School of Arts and Sciences, 2003—. Former director, Presidential Commission on Strengthening the Community.
AWARDS, HONORS: Research fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies; Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching; grant for teaching with technology, National Endowment for the Humanities.
Prophesying Tragedy: Sign and Voice in Sophocles' Theban Plays, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1988.
Tragedies of Tryrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1990.
A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1996.
(Editor) King Lear and Macbeth, 1674-1995: An Annotated Bibliography of Shakespeare Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies (Binghamton, NY), 1996.
Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2003.
(Editor) A Companion to Tragedy, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Rebecca W. Bushnell's scholarship has focused on early modern English history, culture, and literature. Tragedy in literature has been of particular interest to her, and she has explored various aspects of it in her books Prophesying Tragedy: Sign and Voice in Sophocles' Theban Plays, Tragedies of Tryrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance, and A Companion to Tragedy. In Tragedies of Tyrants, Bushnell probes the relationship between tyranny in political thinking and its representation in drama during the Renaissance period. According to R. A. Foakes in Review of English Studies, the author demonstrates "how the commonplace of criticism in the period, namely that tragedy teaches princes how to rule well, bears little relation to the effect of the presentation of tyranny in the drama." Foakes particularly praised Bushnell for writing "interestingly on the importance of women as objects of desire for tyrants in Renaissance drama."
In A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice, Bushnell offers insight into the development of humanist thought between the publication of Erasmus's Antibarbari in 1520 to Thomas Spenser's Art of Logik, some one hundred years later. She examines the nature versus nurture debate as it was expressed in humanist agriculture and culture; the way in which garden practices reflected philosophical thinking, with symmetry taking on increasing importance, and discusses other polarities of the time. "This is a learned and challenging work, which embraces an extraordinary range of Renaissance and contemporary texts. The author's insistence on tension and ambivalence produces a severely antithetical style that at times seems mannered. But the correlation of humanism and the humanities is an important issue which is illuminated by many insights," stated David Marsh in Renaissance Quarterly. Pamela J. Benson, reviewing A Culture of Teaching in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, noted that "Bushnell draws connections between the early modern humanist concern with tradition and autonomy and contemporary discussions of the role of teachers, the treatment of students, and the shaping of curricula. Her reader will likely feel an urgent need to go out and 'make things happen' in his/her classroom, department, or university."
While Bushnell touches on gardens and their significance in A Culture of Teaching, she expands upon the subject in Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens. In this volume, she looks at gardening manuals from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that mixed magical methods with commonplace advice on the hard work of fashioning a garden. Bushnell commented to Judy West in an interview for Penn Current posted on the University ofPennsylvania Web site: "Nature was everywhere in early modern writing," and in Green Desire, her goal was to dig "into contemporary English gardening manuals to see what these similes might have meant in their time."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Criticism, fall, 1997, Richard Halpern, review of A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice, p. 613.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, October, 1999, review of A Culture of Teaching, p. 558.
Kirkus Reviews, January 24, 1984, review of At Home with Ford.
Publishers Weekly, January 17, 1984, review of At Home with Ford.
Renaissance Quarterly, autumn, 1998, David March, review of A Culture of Teaching, p. 1021.
Review of English Studies, August, 1993, R. A. Foakes, review of Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance, p. 407.
Chicago Botanic Garden Web site, http://www.chicagobotanic.org/ (April, 2004), Marilyn K. Alaimo, review of Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens.
University of Pennsylvania Web site, http://www.upenn.edu/ (April 15, 2004), Judy West, interview with Bushnell.*