What do Shakespeare and superheroes have in common? A penchant for lycra and capes? A flair for the dramatic? Well, according to Shakespeare scholar, English Professor and comic-book fan Jeffrey Kahan, the connection between Batman and the Bard runs much deeper. In his new book, Shakespeare and Superheroes (ARC Humanities Press, 2018), Kahan argues that Shakespeare’s work and the popular superhero comics of the past century are actually engaged in a meaningful dialogue with each other. Rather than simply exploring the influence of Shakespearean drama on the superhero genre or analysing the many comic-book adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, Kahan instead tackles the much more profound question of how these diverse canons engage with broader philosophical and cultural issues. In doing so, he draws highly original parallels between their respective ethical and epistemological stances. Over the course of three chapters, Kahan dissects the shared approach to issues of morality and free will evidenced in Hamlet and CW’s Arrow, analyses the figure of Wonder Woman through the lens of Shakespearean crossdressing, and explores the existential meta-humour of Othello’s Iago and Marvel’s Deadpool. Refusing to adhere to conventional academic hierarchies, Shakespeare and Superheroes provides new insights and fresh perspectives that will appeal equally to scholars of Early Modern literature and twentieth-century popular culture.
In a truly fascinating interview, Kahan discusses the thematic parallels between popular comic books and Shakespeare’s plays, the benefits of reading distinct literary works intertextually, and the role of academia in the current political climate.
Kahan encourages acts of heroism in daily life on his FB page BE SUPER!Miranda Corcoran received her Ph.D. in 2016 from University College Cork, where she currently teaches American literature. Her research interests include Cold-War literature, genre fiction, literature and psychology, and popular culture. She has published articles on paranoia, literature, and Cold-War popular culture in The Boolean, Americana, and Transverse, and contributed a book chapter on transnational paranoia to the recently published book Atlantic Crossings: Archaeology, Literature, and Spatial Culture. She blogs about literature and popular culture HERE and can also be found on Twitter.