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UT Humanities Center: Public Books Circle with Professor Heather Hirschfeld

Join us to discuss a mesmerizing historical novel that was one of The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2020!  Professor Heather Hirschfeld will lead the discussion of Hamnet.

During the Black Plague in 1580s England, a young Latin tutor named William Shakespeare falls in love with Agnes, a free-spirited woman who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. They settle in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Agnes becomes a steadfast force for her young husband, whose career on the London stage is established just when their beloved 11-year-old son Hamnet succumbs to sudden fever. The novel asks us to imagine how his son’s death shaped the art of Shakespeare forever after. Geraldine Brooks notes that the novel is “about the transfiguration of life into art”; it is a luminous portrait of a marriage ravaged by grief and loss, and a tender re-imagining of a boy whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays of all time.

Maggie O’Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in London. She has worked as a waitress, chambermaid, bike messenger, teacher, arts administrator, journalist (in Hong Kong and London), and as the deputy literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. She is the author of After You’d Gone (winner of the Betty Trask Award); My Lover’s Lover; The Distance Between Us (recipient of a Somerset Maugham Award); The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox; The Hand That First Held Mine; Instructions for a Heatwave (winner of a Costa Book Award); This Must Be the Place; and most recently, I Am, I Am, I Am.

How It Works

Our Public Books Circle meets online twice a month and is free and open to the public. Each of our sessions is led by a UT professor, and everyone is welcome to add their voice to the discussion!

  • Register for the book discussion meeting by clicking on the registration link below (you'll be sent a confirmation email with your own unique link to the discussion)
  • Buy a copy of the book (Union Ave Books in downtown Knoxville will be happy to handle your order

Read, enjoy, and join the book discussion online on the date of the event!

Heather Hirschfeld is Kenneth Curry Professor and director of Undergraduate Studies in the UT Department of English. Professor Hirschfeld is a scholar of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British literature who specializes in Shakespearean drama. She has recently edited The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Comedy and The New Cambridge Shakespeare Hamlet, and is the author of the books Joint Enterprises: Collaborative Drama and the Institutionalization of the English Renaissance Stage and The End of Satisfaction: Drama and Repentance in the Age of Shakespeare. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Dial-In Information

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Wednesday, May 19 at 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Virtual Event
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Lectures & Presentations


Humanities & Social Sciences


Current Students, Faculty & Staff, General Public, Alumni


Classics, English, History, Humanities Center, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures (MFLL), Philosophy, Religious Studies


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UT Humanities Center

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