Amherst Magazine

The Folger Gets a New Director

By Emily Gold Boutilier

The new director of the Folger Shakespeare Library is a pioneer in the digital analysis of Shakespeare’s texts.

Michael Witmore, 43, a scholar of Shakespeare and early modern literature, joined the Folger—which is administered under the auspices of Amherst College—in July. He succeeds Gail Kern Paster, who retired after nine years. 

“One of the things that Shakespeare does best is to make life more vivid,” Witmore says. “As humanists, scholars, actors and audiences, we will continue to find Shakespeare and the period in which he lived important: the Folger will be an exciting place to see that future unfold.”

Before joining the Folger, Witmore was a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin. He directs the Working Group for Digital Inquiry, a group of humanists who are mapping the prose genres of early English books online. He is co-winner of the Perkins Prize for the Study of Narrative. He earned an A.B. in English at Vassar College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in rhetoric at UC Berkeley.

“I believe he is someone with the potential to be a truly transformative leader,” says Paul Ruxin ’65, chair of the Folger Board of Governors. The author of two published books, Witmore has several others in progress, including Shakespeare by the Numbers and Other Tales from the Digital Frontier, with Jonathan Hope. He is also textual editor of The Comedy of Errors for The Norton Shakespeare.

The Folger, located one block east of the U.S. Capitol, is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection. It was founded by Henry Clay Folger, Class of 1879, and his wife, Emily.