This article focuses on Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl (2016), a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew published in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, to explore how the novel and the series seek to create affective ‘middlebrow’ communities that purport to keep Shakespeare alive through love. Counter-intuitively, Tyler chose to adapt a play whose gender politics are unlovable to many twenty-first-century American readers, including the author. But although Tyler has said that she ‘hates’ Shakespeare, her solution is surprisingly to inspire mild, positive feelings in her readers. In mediating Shakespeare in this way, Tyler effectively strengthens bonds of empathy and affection between herself and her readers. Extending its claim, the article argues that the Hogarth Shakespeare Project is a ‘middlebrow’ publishing enterprise, in the sense that it uses Shakespeare to cultivate communities built on the relationship between the adapting author and her readers.
Elizabeth Rivlin is an associate professor of English at Clemson University. She is the author of The Aesthetics of Service in Early Modern England (Northwestern University Press, 2012) and co-editor, with Alexa Alice Joubin, of Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). She is completing a book titled Shakespeare and the American Middlebrow. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org