By Arthur W. Frank
Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary and Professor II, VID Specialized University, Norway
Vulnerable reading seeks to understand the value of a text to a reader who is living in a condition of heightened vulnerability. My central form of vulnerability is what I have called deep illness, a condition that threatens but provides time for reflection. Shakespeare is my chosen exemplar of practices of vulnerable reading. By the company of Shakespeare, I mean first how Shakespeare’s stories can be companions, and keeping company with those stories adds richness to a life. Second, the company of Shakespeare denotes the array of texts that collect under the rubric of “Shakespeare”. These texts begin with variously edited versions of the quartos and folios, but then expand beyond the plays to includes literary critical works, philosophical reflections, historical commentaries, and especially important for my project, both reflections of actors and directors, and also memoirs in which writers consider how Shakespeare has affected their lives.