Occupying Shakespeare

James Shapiro reviewing Shakespeare and the 99%:

[It is] the first book of its kind: one that gives voice to a seething and justified resentment of the academic elite by those teaching at non-elite institutions. Its publication signals that there is now more to be gained than lost by challenging a profession unwilling to acknowledge disparities in “income, power, and prestige.” It speaks to divisions long papered over and suggests that the myriad challenges now faced by faculty at non-elite schools are likely to be visited soon upon those who teach at research universities.

This part give me things to think about with regard to my previous post on the structure of American anthropology (emphasis added):

A crucial feature of the still dominant historicist approach to Shakespeare and his world is its insistence on “alienation.” The New Historicism, Daniel Vitkus argues, “sought to reconstruct the past in ways that defined that past as radically different. So much so, that sometimes the perceived strangeness of past cultural practices functioned to disconnect that strange past from the familiar present.” This emphasis on alienation may work brilliantly in Ivy League classrooms, but, as many of the contributors to this volume — almost all of them trained in this methodology — have come to discover, “the hermeneutics of suspicion” fares less well at schools where most students come from working-class backgrounds.

This makes me wonder how much the ideas, debates, and perspectives in which graduates of the “central” anthropology departments (and their students) are immersed are failing to land with students they teach at non-elite institutions.

On one chapter by Denise Albanese:

Her mostly first-generation students have worked hard to get where they are, and often bring to the classroom a “naive” predisposition — one that we all began with at some point in our reading experience: a desire to identify with literary characters, to think of them as real people. She concludes that her students are “not necessarily well-served by our insisting on disenchanting the literary object.”

How does this translate to the teaching of anthropology? Perhaps if anthropology is failing to connect with students, then this may not be just a failure to make it more “accessible” but that the theoretical underpinnings of the version of anthropology we present don’t speak to them.

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