Becoming an Oxfordian: The Phenomenology of Shifting Research Paradigms in Shakespearean Biography
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This essay seeks to gain a phenomenological understanding of the journey from skepticism in the traditional biography of Shakespeare to belief that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was the poet-playwright, and how this belief affects one’s experience of the canon. An interpretive hermeneutic reading of fifty recently-published personal essays by self-identified “Oxfordians” suggests that an expansive experience of Shakespeare’s works obtains when viewed as de Vere’s writing, one that can intersect significantly with one’s sense of self. Using a Ricoeurean lens as well as a framework for mapping the phenomenology of paradigm shifts, the essay uncovers novel cognitive, affective and conative responses to Shakespeare, in particular a strong sense of empathy for the author otherwise difficult under the traditional attribution.