October 3, 2007
ZOMG! They be killing Shakespeare OH NOES!!
(Post title adapted from this post by Michael Bérubé.)
So, on the one hand we have an administrator halting the performance of a play that could easily pique students’ interest in Shakespeare. On the other, though, we have Phyllis Schlafly complaining that “Shakespeare has disappeared from required courses in English departments at more than three-fourths of the top 25 U.S. universities” (see Evil Bender for an analysis of Schlafly’s problematic composition skills, of which her citing statistics without evidence is merely one example).
My guess as to why English departments are likely to offer courses that “deconstruct” (according to Schlafly — I wouldn’t necessarily use that word) Shakespeare and other Medieval or Renaissance writers is that most English majors have already read Shakespeare. They got the basics in high school, and are now ready to delve deeper, examining sexuality across the comedies, say (and anyone who thinks sex and sexuality aren’t an issue in Shakespeare’s plays is fooling themselves). Personally, I read Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade, Hamlet in 10th, Macbeth in 11th, and King Lear in 12th. (And then I read King Lear in Proseminar in Literature my freshman year of college. And then I read King Lear in Brit Lit I my sophomore year. It’s a wonderful play, but man, was I ready to get away from it for a while.) Also, I was sound tech for our drama department’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing. If anything can be taken from my experience, it’s that English majors have plenty of experience with the classics. What, then, is so wrong with both students and professors wanting to expand the canon to include more women, more writers of color, more outsiders, more queers?
Oh, wait. I forgot who I was talking about.