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Shakespeare and Genius

People often wonder how someone with no more than a high school education could have penned some of the greatest plays the world has ever known. The answer is, of course, genius. Genius is the explanation when there is no other explanation for achievement that is beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of humans.

William Shakespeare, 1882. Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate, from Poetry 180 Web site

Shakespeare (1564-1616) was no doubt a genius. Although he never attended university, his genius inspired him to write plays of such magnificent beauty and universal ideas that they are still performed the world over in thousands of productions and a great variety of interpretations. Harold Bloom, one of the world’s leading literary critics, discussed his recent books during a Library event. The presentation, “Shakespeare and Genius,” is based on three of Bloom’s books: “Hamlet: Poem Unlimited” (Riverhead Books, 2003), “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human” (Riverhead Books, 1998) and “Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds” (Warner Books, 2002).

If you were unable to attend this March 25, 2003, event, you can still enjoy Bloom’s lucid commentary at the CyberLC Web site. CyberLC offers a variety of Webcasts of Library events such as lectures, symposia, performances and celebrations.

Here, you can access a talk on oral histories recorded after the attack on Pearl Harbor; hear former Poet Laureate Billy Collins read from his work; listen to author Kenneth Janken discuss his biography of Walter White, who served as executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); or see pianist and author Annette Kaufman talk about the book she wrote with her husband: "A Fiddler's Tale: How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me."

Many of these events are sponsored by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, which seeks to bring the world's best senior thinkers -- the Kluge Scholars -- into residence to stimulate discourse and distill wisdom from the rich resources of the Library and to interact over a period of time with political Washington.

On November 5, the Kluge Center will award the first Kluge Center Prize. Through the generosity of John W. Kluge, founding chairman of the James Madison Council, the Library's private sector advisory body, the Library of Congress will present a recurring award of $1 million for lifetime achievement in the human sciences. The John W. Kluge Prize is designed to reward work in the wide range of disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prizes -- including history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, criticism in the arts and humanities and linguistics.

A. William Shakespeare, 1882. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-80147 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: BIOG FILE - Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 [item].

B. Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate, from Poetry 180 Web site

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