Friday, January 20, 2017

Who Should Represent English Literature?

I first took this story as a cosmic joke; thinking that absurdity was still alive and well in Pennsylvania.

At the University of Pennsylvania, a well-hung portrait of William Shakespeare was taken down after a protest by English students and a question was raised as to who should be enshrined in his place.

the English Department there replaced a portrait of William Shakespeare with one of Audre Lorde, who was a lesbian black woman who died of cancer. The choice of who to remove is understandable, given that Shakespeare is surely rumored to be a dead white European male. As kids say, "Shake, spear, kick in the rear." It remains to be seen how enduring this recent choice will be; but her selection checks several categories on the diversity checklist.

In fairness to U. Penn's older choice of Shakespeare's picture, at least they didn't hang a picture of James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway.

It's like legislative action to establish an official state song. Louisiana dredged up, "You are My Sunshine." Tennessee with "Rocky Top" and "Tennessee Waltz." Washington chose "Louie, Louie," and Ohio "Hang on Sloopy." The last one is a certifiable earworm. 

Do English students do better than legislators? The ball is in your court.  Bill Shakespeare must be rolling over in his grave in Westminster Abbey. Or maybe, like Sir John Falstaff, laughing uproarishly at this infinite jest.


Cloudia said...

In all seriousness: I have applauded the Erickson approach to history (Her-story too) of recognizing that history or the rest of us is not about dates and battles. BUT I have witnessed a sort of growing fascism around certain accepted 'norms' and 'what it correct' that shouts down any conversation more complicated than repeating the approved rubrics: about white men, about Israel, about the US. You see, only those entities are legitimate to criticize - and NEVER to approve! I speak as someone who has been in the progressive camp from childhood. Civil Rights, Vietnam/peace/war, the draft, save the planet, Gay Liberation (what it was called back then); I have been a scarred veteran of every battle. And today, instead of hearing my instructive battle stories and perspective on how to bring change (we accomplished a lot) I find myself put down, called a problem, told to check my privilege by people who have lived 10 minutes and took a course or saw something online. Being told that "I am the problem" by someone with no experience or intellectual grasp that I can perceive. . . well if I feel disenfranchised from the progressive project what do you think traditional blue collar dems in rusting states think?! We know today don't we? So thanks for today's debacle in DC to purists of right AND left who argue ideology while real people suffer for common [ yes I adore Common] sense solutions such as the US once excelled at. Yes. I like mz Lorde. But Shakespeare has stood the test of time and shaped a language and culture over centuries. But only our descendants well know the important authors of our day like mz L? Who knows! Thanks for listening, Angel. You are sharp and humane and make me want to share stuff with you. . . .

Mike said...

I think U. Penn should put a picture of ZZ Top and make LaGrange the school song.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Thank you for your wise input, Cloudia! I definitely counted you as a progressive who got there the hard way.

/I'm worried with how things are going; but keeping a good attitude.

Cloudia said...

Hang in there! You should have lived through Nixon!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Who should represent English Literature?

BTW, IMHO, FYI, it should be someone who's English, right? I mean, that's a no-brainer?

Shakespeare's not a bad choice. Would "thee" and "thou" even still exist without Bill? Methinks not.

However, my vote goes to an English person who wrote something that touches me far mo' than anything Bill ever wrote. I vote for the person who wrote the following:

"So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.".

And my second choice would be the person who wrote:

"When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon, and knew that all the grim darkness of a medieval fortress lay between him and the outer world of sunshine and well-metaled highroads where he had lately been so happy, disporting himself as if he had bought up every road in England, he flung himself at full length on the floor, and shed bitter tears, and abandoned himself to dark despair."

~ D-FensDogG Lite
[The Non-Carbonated, Zero-Calorie, Sugar-&-Fun-Free,
Unoriginal, Non-Creative, One-Liner version of D-FensDogG]

I realize this was definitely TMI from a D-FensDogG who has recently vowed to "lighten up". I sincerely apologize for the lapse and promise that this shit shan't happen again.

Blue Grumpster said...

I don't think anyone can represent English literature.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Wonderful quote from The Wind in the Willows, Mr McCarthy. That chapter and the one describing Toad's further adventures are among the funniest things I've ever read. As for Shakespeare, don't some people think he was gay?

allenwoodhaven said...

I like the idea of Falstaff laughing uproariously! Personally I think Shakespeare is the better choice.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Ha! Kudos and a lifetime supply of "E Tickets" to you for recogOnizing good stuffs when ya sees it! (I didn't think anyone would have Clue #1 about that.)

>>... "As for Shakespeare, don't some people think he was gay?"

Not that there be (or not to be) anything wrong with that.

~ D-FensDogG
My new blog is @
(Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

Bilbo said...

Cloudia rocks! And I don't know that there's a better across-the-board representative for English literature writ large than Bill Shakespeare.