Adele Davidson is the first alumna of Kenyon to receive tenure in the English department. She has taught at Kenyon since 1985, after receiving her doctorate from the University of Virginia and having taught at Bowdoin College. Her main field of specialization is Shakespeare and her teaching interests include Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and poetry, comedy and the literature of the Reformation. She has directed the honors program four times and twice served as Resident Director of the department's off-campus study program at the University of Exeter.
Davidson's collegiate service at Kenyon has included terms as faculty secretary, chair of faculty lectureships, humanities representative on the Faculty Executive Committee, chair of the Resource Allocation Committee and membership on the Campaign Planning Committee (for the campaign concluded in 2001), where she chaired the Subcommittee on Quality of Student Life. A summer grant from the American Council of Learned Societies has supported research at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she also led an evening colloquium on Elizabethan shorthand.
Davidson's book, "Shakespeare in Shorthand: The Textual Mystery of King Lear," won the 2007 Jay L. Halio Prize in Shakespeare and Early Modern Studies from the University of Delaware Press.
Davidson's research interests include textual studies and bibliography, and she has explored the question of whether or not some of Shakespeare's early quartos may have been transcribed in Elizabethan stenography, a textual issue that potentially affects the shape, wording and content of the plays. Her book examines Elizabethan shorthand in relation to the quarto (1608) and folio (1623) versions of "King Lear." In 2005 her discovery of acrostics and anagrams in the seventeenth-century poetry of George Herbert was written up in the arts section of The London Times.
1986 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ Virginia
1977 — Master of Arts from Univ Virginia
1975 — Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College, Phi Beta Kappa
Courses Recently Taught
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of department chair. Offered every year.
This course will introduce students to a range of critical methods, interpretive strategies and approaches to literature as we explore connections among theories of comedy and comic texts. Jokes, puns and the language of comedy; the carnivalesque; the role of laughter; the relation of comedy to aggression and violence; the depiction of gender; the comedy of manners; utopian social impulses; and the cultural work of comedy: These issues will shape our attempt to explore traditional and contemporary definitions of the genre. Authors to be studied include Shakespeare, Austen, Wilde, Shaw, O'Connor, Woody Allen and David Sedaris. This counts toward the methods requirement for the major (or, for the classes of 2023 and earlier, the approaches to literary study requirement). Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered occasionally.
An introduction to the major plays, this course emphasizes questions of language and modes of reading as the entryway into key themes and topics (e.g., gender, identity, kin/g/ship, desire) within the Shakespearean corpus. An initial in-depth study of a single play will enable us to acquire a base knowledge of rhetorical strategies, considerations of performance and thematic development that we will subsequently apply to our readings of other plays. Assignments reinforce reading and writing strategies. This counts toward the pre-1700 requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every year.
This study of the Renaissance poem opens up a delicate world of intensely structured language. We will develop strategies of micro- and macro-reading for understanding how sparks of meaning lattice across a poem to create a whole effect: we will see how a single letter can change everything, how much a single word can do, a single line, a stanza within a poem, an entire sonnet within a series of sonnets. We will explore ways poems draw us into their worlds by transforming us into the "I" of the lyric speaker, by articulating our own emotions in a beautiful and intricate arrangement of words designed to amplify or soothe. In the light of early modern poetic studies as well as contemporary methodologies (e.g., George Puttenham, Roman Jakobson), this course examines the major Renaissance poetic movements and poetics of the 16th and early 17th centuries, including the works of sonneteers, popular ballad writers, the Cavalier Poets, the Metaphysical Poets and others. This counts toward the pre-1700 requirement for the major (or, for the classes of 2023 and earlier, the approaches to literary study requirement). Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every year.
Who and what is "Shakespeare"? The wealth of Shakespeare's legacy allows us to offer many versions of this course, all of which will focus on Shakespeare on the page and on the stage. Sometimes this course may examine the role of the cultural "other." Looking at figures like the witch, the native/foreigner, or the cross-dressed woman in such plays as "Macbeth", "Othello" and "The Merchant of Venice", we will explore the way Shakespeare's theater shaped -- and was shaped by -- the cultural expectations of the English Renaissance. At other times the course may query the concept of Renaissance self-fashioning in the sonnets and in plays such as "Twelfth Night", "Hamlet", and "Antony and Cleopatra." We may also explore what Shakespeare read as he composed plays such as "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "King Lear," and "The Tempest" -- and how writers since Shakespeare have responded to and re-envisioned his work in the form of lyric poems, new plays, novels and films. Now and then, the course may focus on "the history plays," or the relationship of comedy and tragedy to the romances. No matter which version of Shakespeare is offered, a close reading of several of Shakespeare's plays will always shape and center this course. This counts towards the pre-1700 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor. Offered annually.
Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS will earn the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one-to two page proposal for the IS that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a thirty-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members will follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.