Lina Perkins Wilder
Associate Professor of English
Joined Connecticut College: 2006
B.A., University of Rochester; B.M., Eastman School of Music; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University
Lina Perkins Wilder teaches courses on Shakespeare and the early modern period in English literature. Her courses include Essentials of Literary Study; Shakespeare in the 1590s; Shakespeare after 1600; Pain and Violence in Renaissance Drama; Jews and Moors in Renaissance Drama; Milton; Donne, Herbert, Marvell; Shakespeare in Performance; and Shakespeare’s Brain, Shakespeare’s Body.
Wilder’s research has to do with theatrical space, stage props, and language and the ways in which these shape and are shaped by thought and memory. She is also interested in literary character and book history. Her current book project addresses Shakespeare’s concept of performance, a term that was only just beginning to be applied to acting in the early seventeenth century. Her book, Shakespeare’s Memory Theatre: Recollection, Properties, and Character (Cambridge University Press, 2010), argues that, for Shakespeare, the materials of theater are the materials of memory. Shakespeare’s theater is a “remembrance environment”: a place whose physical and social properties encourage mnemonic instruction and recollection. But the function of this remembrance environment is not just to stimulate players’ accurate recall of their parts or to provide the impetus and justification for visually emblematic stagings. The physical properties of the theater—the space itself, the players, and the many stage properties used and re-used from play to play—become the materials for a mnemonic dramaturgy that shapes language, character, and plot. As the plays enable remembering, Wilder argues, so remembering shapes the plays.
Other recent publications include “‘My Exion is Entered’: Anatomy, Costume, and Theatrical Knowledge in 2 Henry IV,” forthcoming in Renaissance Drama; “Playing Sodomites: Gender and Protean Character in As You Like It,” in Shakespeare’s Sense of Character: On the Page and from the Stage, edited by Yu Jin Ko and Michael Shurgot; “Changeling Bottom: Speech Prefixes, Acting, and Character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (in the Routledge journal Shakespeare) and “Toward a Shakespearean ‘Memory Theater’: Romeo, the Apothecary, and the Performance of Memory” (in Shakespeare Quarterly). She has also published an essay on The Rez Sisters, a play by the Native Canadian playwright Tomson Highway. Wilder’s current book project explores the trope of collection in early modern drama. An essay in progress addresses the link between stenography and character in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Wilder has presented papers at conferences of the Renaissance Society of America, the Shakespeare Association of America, and the Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies.
Wilder sometimes describes herself as a “failed opera singer.” But although she gave up her music career after graduating from the Eastman School of Music with a B.M. in voice performance, she continues to perform when she’s allowed. Her operatic roles include Venus in John Blow’s Venus and Adonis (ca. 1682) — the role was originated by Moll Davies, mistress of Charles II, but Wilder played it opposite her future husband, Steve — and Belinda in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1689). She has also participated in staged readings of Lord Byron’s Marino Faliero and Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good and narrated a student film — and in class, she has been known to burst into song at the slightest provocation.
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“The first time I read a play by Shakespeare, I was twelve and had a bad case of the flu. I’m convinced that this was the best possible introduction to a writer — and a historical period — whose difficulty is often downplayed by adherents of the Shakespeare-is-universal school of thought. Mildly delirious with a fever of 103, I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I couldn’t understand what half the characters were saying. I simply let the language carry me. It was a perfect reading experience, entirely free and entirely strange. I try to recapture my twelve-year-old giddiness in my classroom and my own reading and writing.”- Lina Wilder