Elaine Scarry


Naming Thy Name:
Cross Talk in Shakespeare's Sonnets

This event includes a book signing


November 30, 2016
8:00 PM


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes ELAINE SCARRY—the Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University and author of The Body in Pain—for a discussion of her latest book, Naming Thy Name: Cross Talk in Shakespeare's Sonnets.

About Naming Thy Name

Shakespeare’s sonnets are indisputably the most enigmatic and enduring love poems written in English. They also may be the most often argued-over sequence of love poems in any language to date. But what is it that continues to elude us? While it is in part the spellbinding incantations, the hide-and-seek of sound and meaning, it is also the mystery of the noble youth to whom he makes a promise—the promise that he will survive in the breath and speech and minds of all of those who ever read these sonnets. “How can such promises be fulfilled if no name is actually given?” Scarry asks, and this book is the answer.

Naming Thy Name lays bare William Shakespeare’s devotion to a beloved whom he not only names but names repeatedly in a love affair immortalized in the microtexture of the sonnets, in their overarching architecture, and in their deep fabric. By naming his name, Scarry enables us to hear clearly a lover’s call and the beloved’s response for the very first time. Here, over the course of many poems, are two poets in conversation, in love, speaking and listening, writing and writing back.

In a true work of alchemy, Elaine Scarry, one of America’s most innovative and passionate thinkers, brilliantly synthesizes textual analysis, literary criticism, and historiography in pursuit of the haunting call and recall of Shakespeare’s verse, and that of his (now at last named) beloved friend.


"Scarry’s conclusions . . . invite a close reading of the sonnets and a pure enjoyment of the metaphorical power and linguistic intricacy of each line . . . [A] highly detailed, attentive reading." —Publishers Weekly

"Naming thy Name is a beautiful book. It is a love story: of the love between William Shakespeare and Henry Constable, and of another writer’s true love for that love. There has been no book that has so thoroughly explored the practice of poetic conversation among the sonneteers of the English Renaissance. And there has been no book, at least since Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Mr. W. H., that has been so passionate in pursuit of a theory, a theory of the love behind all Shakespeare’s other loves. Scarry has given us the latest, bravest answer to a question no reader of the sonnets can fail to ask.” —Jeff Dolven

Elaine Scarry
Elaine Scarry

Elaine Scarry

Elaine Scarry is the Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. Her book The Body in Pain was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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