She is little, but she is fierce
Laurie Osborne, the College's resident Shakespeare expert, has been a member of the Colby faculty since 1990. When she isn't reciting Shakespeare, Osborne also sews and bakes for her colleagues.
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When Laurie Osborne, NEH/Class of 1940 distinguished professor of humanities, English, came to Colby in 1990, everybody referred to her as “the new Mark Benbow,” the long-standing English professor whom she was replacing as the department’s resident Shakespearian expert.
Though she has since outgrown the nickname by establishing her own identity as the residential expert on everything Shakespeare, when she first arrived on the Hill the nickname was so prevalent that even the plumber who came to work at her house greeted her by saying, “so you’re the new Mark Benbow.”
But now Osborne is Colby’s undisputed Shakespearophile, and she will quote and allude to Shakespeare’s plays much more quickly and subtly than any normal human being can keep up with. (Although, if you take the time to ask her what she is talking about she will gladly take the time to explain it to you.)
Osborne developed her love for Shakespeare while getting her Masters at Syracuse University. A comparative literature major in English and French as an undergrad, Osborne did not intend on specializing in Shakespeare or in staying at Syracuse for her Ph.D. But to quote [Hamlet], “Our wills and fates do so contrary run.” After Osborne took a class on Shakespeare with Professor Jean Howard, she loved both the subject and her new teacher so much that she stayed at Syracuse to get her Ph.D and she wrote her dissertation on metadrama in Shakespeare’s plays.
Though she loves few things more than talking Shakespeare, asking her to choose her favorite Shakespearian work is an off-limits question. “No you can’t ask me that,” she chided me when I tried. “Whichever one I’m teaching at the moment…so as of this Thursday it will be Othello,” she said.
“They’re more fun together than they are separately,” she added, saying that the most fun part of the semester for her is when students have studies four or five texts and they start to see the connections between the works.
In addition to being famous for her Shakespearian expertise, Osborne is, as Shakespeare says in Twelfth Night, “a knitter and spinner in the sun.” She began her hobbies of knitting, sewing and making clothes as a child by using two spoons with pointed handles to knit. She now owns a wardrobe which she estimates is roughly half homemade.
When she is feeling particularly ambitious she will even buy sheep’s wool and spin it into thread or yarn. She even grows her own Japanese indigo leaves in her backyard to dye some of her clothes.
If you are a sewing enthusiast yourself, you can find Osborne on the knit and crochet online community Ravelry.com under her “secret superhero identity” ThatLaurie.
She also loves cooking and baking, and often shares what she makes with her students or her colleagues in the English department. She promises that this is not a form of bribery to get her students and peers to like her better. Rather, she says “I bake when I get stressed and then I have to do something with the stuff that I’ve baked,” so she hands it out in class or leaves it in the department break room. And yes, she does realize that baking for her colleagues when she feels stressed is not necessarily a very good incentive for them to limit her work.
Although her expertise is in 500-year-old literature, Osborne is not afraid to take on more modern academic subjects. She also studies and teaches classes in the areas of film and other new forms of media.
Though she has an impressive résumé of published books and articles, Osborne’s first love is teaching. She was the first female recipient of the Senior Class Charles W. Bassett Teaching Award in 1999 and she will stop at no lengths to improve the writing of her students. As Shakespeare himself said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “She is little but she is fierce.”