2010 Ross M. Lence Master Teacher: James Shapiro
No stranger to the University or the City, Jim Shapiro first came to the University Honors Program 24 years ago to lecture on King Lear in "The Human Situation" course. Since that first encounter, he has been a frequent visitor and vocal supporter of the College—its mission, curriculum, students, and teachers. He particularly admired Ross Lence.
A Chicago alumnus and master teacher himself, Professor Shapiro is featured in Great Books, David Denby's respected and readable book about his "adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and other indestructible writers of the western world." Denby, the film critic for The New Yorker, describes Shapiro's teaching style as "gently badgering" and sees in it "a rough kind of therapy" as the teacher "plays students off one another, not always answering their questions but asking new questions himself." Compared to a cluster of master teachers observed by Denby, Shapiro emerges as "the Coach"; his demeanor in the classroom, "combative gaiety."
Professor Shapiro is the author of influential and prize-winning monographs, most recently 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, a book that won the Theatre Book Prize as well as the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for the best nonfiction book published in the United Kingdom in 2005. He will be on an international book tour this spring, promoting Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare, on which he will draw for his Lence Lecture. His current project is entitled "1606: The Year of Lear." Professor Shapiro is the Larry Miller Professor of English at Columbia University.