Board of Trustees Distinguished professor talks Shakespeare and style

Patrick Colm Hogan, 2017 Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English, Cognitive Science, and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies presents his research on the mixing of genres by authors to develop their own styles on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 in Oak Hall. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Patrick Colm Hogan, 2017 Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English, Cognitive Science, and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies presents his research on the mixing of genres by authors to develop their own styles on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 in Oak Hall. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

On Monday, Oct. 16, the 2017 Board of Trustees (BOT) Distinguished Professor, Patrick Hogan, read from his scholarly work on the “Generative Principles of Story Style: Shakespeare and the Integration of Genres.” The BOT Distinguished Professor is the highest honor the university bestows on faculty. The title honors those who have excelled in research, teaching, service and international reputation at the university. The series of presentations by the BOT Distinguished Professors are meant to foster interdisciplinary dialogue within the college.

Hogan is a professor in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and, as well as authoring and editing a number of books and collections, has become an affiliate of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, the comparative literature and cultural studies program and cognitive science program.

Hogan’s work focused on defining style, defining genre and discussing how Shakespeare utilized the two in a unique way. According to Hogan, style can be summarized as a distinct recurring pattern for some scope, or a range of targets across which a pattern is identified, such as a work or author, and at some level, or type of coherence.

Part of style is being able to recognize a pattern, through either calculation or encoding. Encoding is when the style can be sensed experientially as a sort of internalized violation of the pattern you expected. Hogan equated recognizing patterns even when we are unable to articulate them as a process similar to the rules of linguistics and language.

Style includes surface content, plot, narration, inferences, interpretations, attitudes and the storyworld as well as the movements and time periods of the writing or work. According to Hogan, style serves both a thematic and an emotional purpose.

Genre, meanwhile, is what writers and people in the English field typically view as a way to categorize works. Stylistic analysis incorporates genre, and Hogan suggests that there is great variation in genre.

“We may understand genre in many different ways,” writes Hogan, “but perhaps the most useful is in terms of cross-cultural structures. In the case of stories, these are romantic, heroic, sacrificial and so on. These structures are defined by the protagonist’s goals, the emotion systems that establish those goals and principles for enhancing the emotional experience.”

Hogan also spoke on story universals in relation to genre, which he explains as the general structure and genre of a story that may have implications on how we think about history.

Hogan’s focus was on genre mixing. “Many authors mix genres. The simplest way is through plots and subplots,” Hogan said.

To provide examples for his research and theories, Hogan used Shakespeare’s works. He spoke about how many of Shakespeare’s works, such as “Romeo and Juliet” or “Hamlet” can fit into multiple genres. For example, Hamlet has themes of a revenge tragedy and a heroic usurpation story, as well as a criminal investigation story and even has notes of romance and seduction stories. “Romeo and Juliet” uses conventions that could allow it to fit into romantic, revenge, heroic, sacrificial, seduction or the familial genre.

“Shakespeare...involves more complex integration,” Hogan said. “He identifies causally implicated events in the story with causally implicated events of another story and another genre...A key part of integration is making the various integrated elements work together.”

After Hogan’s presentation, there was a brief question and answer portion of the event, in which other respected professors in the field asked some intelligent questions regarding how Hogan’s work might relate to other areas and periods of literature.

“Rather than reducing it (the story) to one genre, integrated genres gives (the story) much greater richness,” Hogan concluded.


Julia Mancini is the associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.mancini@uconn.edu.