CLA Spotlight on Anna Riehl Bertolet & ShakespeareFest
Anna Riehl Bertolet is an associate professor in the Department of English. She is originally from Moscow, Russia, and moved to the U.S. with her family. Her specialty is in early modern literature and culture, especially Shakespeare and Elizabeth I. She is the author of The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I and a co-editor of Tudor Court Culture. She is a co-director, with Craig Bertolet, of the AU Summer in London Program. Her current research interest explores one aspect of the lives of women in 17th century England that has an interesting, even hidden connection to the written word. Her interests outside of the university include traveling, embroidering, watching her husband tend their beautiful garden, keeping up with the lives of her teenage children, and fruitlessly teaching their three cats to grade papers.
Q: Would you please tell us about yourself? (where you’re from, what you teach, and how you ended up in the U.S. and ultimately at Auburn?)
A: I grew up in Moscow, Russia, and, after my family moved to Chicago, lived there for sixteen years. After receiving my PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2007, I joined the English Department here at Auburn University where I teach a range of courses, such as British Literature before 1789, Shakespeare, Milton, Renaissance Literature, and various graduate courses in the Renaissance period. This summer, I’m excited to teach a new class out of my usual range, “Harry Potter in the World of Muggles” (ENGL 4730).
Q: What is your current area of research, and how did you become involved in it?
A: I have a few large research projects in progress: two edited essay collections, an encyclopedia, and a monograph. I am working on a book titled Written in Thread on Contested Ground: Gender and Needlework in Early Modern England. At the heart of this project is a simple question: to what extent, in 16th-17th century England, was needlework a woman’s pursuit and thus a medium of a woman’s expression equivalent to writing? How were the roles gendered at the stages of design, production, and consumption of embroidery? These days, my research is turning more and more towards material culture and its interrelations with literature, gender issues, and visual culture in Shakespeare’s England. Becoming involved in the study of needlework in this period was actually a result of my personal interest in stitching. Having returned to my needle after a break of two decades, I naturally became curious about needlework in my favorite period of history, Renaissance. What started as a research for pleasure turned into a serious academic inquiry—but the element of fun and enjoyment still remains.
3. You are preparing to celebrate Williams Shakespeare’s 450th birthday – what are your plans, and why is this celebration so important?
A: Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare is “for all time”—and he is. Shakespeare literally has something to offer to everyone: some enjoy the performance; others are enthralled by the language; still others fall in love with his characters—his eloquently conflicted heroes, his brave and outspoken women, his delicious villains. Shakespeare unites us all. ShakespeareFest is our celebration, here at Auburn, of this unifying force that teaches us about our society and ourselves in fresh and surprising ways. ShakespeareFest includes a range of events, from serious research presentations to joyful readings of the sonnets and the Winter’s Tale, to wonderful performances of scenes and songs from Shakespeare’s plays, to library exhibits that showcase Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Here is our Facebook page.
Q: You are the co-director of the AU Summer in London program – what led you to that position? And how can students become involved?
A: This program is one of my most favorite things about my job! I adore London and British culture, and joining the founder of the program, Dr. Craig Bertolet, in its second year of existence, was an easy decision. By now, nearly 100 students are the alumni of this program, and they are forever marked by their experience in London where they learn about other cultures while forming friendships that, if Facebook is any indication, endure beyond the students’ graduation from Auburn. They also never seem to be tired of talking about their six weeks in England so they are our best spokespersons at various events. Please stop by the London table during the Study Abroad Fair (Auburn holds these fairs in mid-September and mid-February), come to one of our Tea & Scones meetings in November, January, or February, or contact us for more information. Here are some links for those who'd like to get started: English Summer Abroad and Program Overview. We are on Facebook, too:
Q: What aspects of your work do you consider the most fulfilling?
A: Undoubtedly, running the London program and teaching Renaissance literature are the best parts of my job. I enjoy working with students of all levels and majors as well as serving as a faculty advisor for the Harry Potter Alliance club.