Dr. Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award Citation for Dr. Paul Werstine
March 20, 2015
The King’s Faculty Research Activities Committee is proud to announce the inaugural recipient of the Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award. The committee unanimously and enthusiastically decided to forego the nomination process, in this, the first year of the Award’s existence, and to offer the award in Dr. Mellon’s memory to a colleague who exemplifies the traits the award is designed to recognize.
Dr. Paul Werstine, Professor of Literature at King’s, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, editor and author of numerous works was chosen by the Faculty Research Activities Committee as the first Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award recipient.
Dr. Werstine has been a model of excellence in research and publication by any and every academic standard. His love of scholarship and the joy and satisfaction he derives from advancing knowledge, his meticulous and patient reverence for, and attention to detail, and his capacity to thoughtfully theorize more broadly from that detailed research, these characteristics have enabled him to radically transform the field of Shakespeare scholarship.
At King’s we all recognize that Dr. Werstine has been a highly productive and deeply respected Shakespeare scholar throughout his career. His C.V. certainly reflects the criteria for the Hugh Mellon Award which include quality of scholarly production, national and international recognition, influence and impact on the field, innovation and originality. Writing in 2010, one of his referees commented about Dr. Werstine’s work: “Over the course of his astonishingly productive career, Werstine has published or forthcoming over 120 articles and reviews, book chapters, and encyclopedia articles; 42 co-edited editions of Shakespeare’s plays in the prestigious Folger Shakespeare Library editions; and four co-edited journal annuals…Few Shakespeare scholars can hope to see their work reach a wider audience than this one…” This colleague continues “Throughout his career, Professor Werstine has made ground-breaking contributions to the field of Shakespeare studies which are recognized by his colleagues world-wide and have also (through the direct impact on Shakespeare editions in the last decades) influenced readers and theatre-goers throughout the English-speaking world.”
His profound impact on the field started in 1979 with a seminal work that initiated the shift in the field of Shakespeare analysis known as the New Bibliography. That was his critically acclaimed article, “Variants in the First Quarto of Love’s Labour’s Lost,” published in Shakespeare Studies. Through the intervening decades Dr. Werstine has been recognized for his astute approaches to editing Shakespeare’s works but especially also for understanding the ways in which the various renditions of those works have come down to us. His major monograph on this subject, Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare, was published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press. In a review by Ben Higgins in The Review of English Studies, 2013 the author wrote “The Scholarly rigour of this work is excellent; it clears away a lot of received ideas and returns to the original material to offer a new appraisal….Werstine…has changed a fundamental part of the way (current thought about Shakespearean texts) …will be developed in the future.” Another reviewer stated “This iconoclastic book is sure to stimulate controversy in bibliographic circles, with implications for all of us who work in Renaissance drama.”
Yet another of his referees wrote: “Paul Werstine has made an historic and positive difference in editorial theory and practice…..His thoughtful critique of editorial assumptions from the late 18th century through the present has made us all more careful, more aware of our own presumptions.” This colleague goes on to comment upon the significance of the Variorum Shakespeare, for which Paul is a co-general Editor and volume editor of Romeo and Juliet. He writes; “This series represents a monumental scholarly undertaking…I have learned to appreciate how vast an investment of time and energy it is to undertake even a single volume in this series….Werstine has brought a new energy to this historic project…The world of Shakespeare studies is already a better place for Werstine’s contributions, and the future promises more of the same.”
Throughout the decades that Dr. Werstine has graced our classrooms he has also been presenting his work at conferences, workshops and invited lectures on an average of two or three per year starting in 1978. He was a major SSHRC grant holder consistently in the 1980s-1990s, and since 1998 he has held three SSHRC Standard Research grants for the New Variorum Shakespeare project. He has actually already been recognized as a recipient of a Mellon award as a Mellon Fellow at the Huntington Library in 1989. He has been a Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library twice, and winner of the King’s Teaching Excellence Award 2003. His most recent recognition came in December 2014 when the Folger Shakespeare Library honoured Dr. Werstine. On that occasion, the Library’s director stated “The Folger Shakespeare Library and lovers of Shakespeare everywhere thank Paul Werstine for his scrupulous editing of the entire canon of Shakespeare’s Works to the highest standards of textual scholarship. This award celebrates his learning and authority, his years of patient and devoted labor, and his belief in Shakespeare’s unique importance to the Humanities.”
Another of the reviewers for the New Variorum wrote “Werstine is arguably the most sophisticated and influential textual scholar working in the field of Shakespeare scholarship today. He has a distinguished scholarly record and a much deserved international reputation. His essays and own editions show the results of intellectual rigor, scholarly patience and integrity, and remarkable clarity of thought and expression.” Finally Professor James R. Siemon of Boston University wrote “His work isn’t just elegant and convincing: it actually matters in editorial practice, and, I am confident, it will go on mattering.”
We could not ask for a better example of scholarship or a better role model than Paul Werstine. He has consistently pursued the goals of exploring, learning, and explaining, that mark the innate intellectual curiosity of a scholar. His impact as a textual scholar and his commitment and dedication to the value of the humanities make it most fitting that he be recognized as the first recipient of the Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award at King’s.