Shakespeare Fans discussion

Major in English without Reading Shakespeare??

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message 1: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 270 comments "But for English majors at top schools including Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, a working knowledge of Shakespeare is no longer required, according to a study published Wednesday.

Indeed, only four of 52 universities and liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News & World Report required their English majors to take a class delving into Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies and historical works, according to the study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni."

= ????? Speechless

message 2: by Tomek (new)

Tomek Sorry, for stupid question, but I am not so familiar with British-American education system:

- don't universities in USA/UK have some kind of minimum curriculum introduced by state, so diplomas could be officially recognized? Or it's only 'continental' attitude?

message 3: by Julia (new)

Julia | 16 comments Yes. Colleges and universities are accredited, supposedly.

message 4: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
I guess curriculums also follow trends, like everything else. Universities and colleges are under pressure to make profits, and to market themselves....and they provide curriculums that they can "sell".

This is my opinion based on what little I know through friends who teach in colleges....and I think the curriculum swings. Some schools are also more classically based. I suspect in a few years....Shakespeare will come back into trend....?

I can even imagine that students weren't signing up for classes on shakespeare....

We are a strange animal!

message 5: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
Here is a more detailed article...or maybe I just couldn't open the Sun Times link?

More and more colleges drop Shakespeare from curriculum, professors heartbroken
By Steven DiCarlo, National Monitor | April 23, 2015
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni published a report on Thursday which revealed only four out of the 52 highest-ranked colleges have a Shakespeare requirement for English majors.

While William Shakespeare is often considered the all-time greatest writer of English literature, a new study has determined that less than 8 percent of the nation's top universities are forcing English majors to take a course focused on the Bard. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni celebrated what is believed to be Shakespeare's birthday on Thursday by publishing a report which revealed that only four of the 52 highest-ranked schools still have a Shakespeare requirement.

In the study, which was titled "The Unkindest Cut: Shakespeare in Exile 2015," researchers determined that Harvard University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wellesley College and the U.S. Naval Academy are the only four schools in the U.S. News & World Report's 52 highest-ranked universities and colleges which require English majors to take a course on Shakespeare to obtain their degree.

Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the Washington, D.C.-based council and lead author of the study, called the findings "a terrible tragedy."

"It is with sadness that we view this phenomenon," said lead author Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the Washington, D.C.-based council. "It really does make us grieve for the loss to a whole generation of young people who would look to a college or university for guidance about what is great and what is of the highest priority."

Poliakoff pointed out in the report that since many English majors go on to teach the subject in schools after graduation, there will soon be a generation of English teachers who have never studied the Shakespeare in depth.

"The Bard, who is the birthright of the English speaking world, has no seat of honor," the report says. "A degree in English without serious study of Shakespeare is like a major in Greek literature without the serious study of Homer."

The report goes on to urge school administrators, trustees, and alumni to review curriculums and stop the "vicious circle of cultural illiteracy" by re-evaluating what students should be required to learn.

message 6: by Martin (last edited May 23, 2015 10:36AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Despite my own love of S, I do not believe he is "essential" for study, of English literature or of anything else, but I think that is just part of my belief that no knowledge is "essential".

Here is Britain, it tends to be the political right who advocate the idea that that are things children have to know, and have to be taught. The left tend to adopt the view that it doesn't matter so much what you're taught, the important thing is to expand the mind by teaching well and getting children to think for themselves. I say "children", but of course it's equally true of University students. Surely it is much better to educate someone to the point where they can be responsive to S, than to cram them with S to the extent that "the appetite may sicken, and so die."

message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
I actually agree with you Martin, I don't think any knowledge is essential either....and I think universities, at least in Canada, and US, make curriculums on what will sell.

message 8: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
I love shakespeare....but there are so many novels and works that challenge readers about life and death....and structure and meaning....

I think it's the discussions, the study of themes and symbolism and content that matters for school...not what the kids study

message 9: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 170 comments Even though I'm an English major, and did as much Shakespeare as possible, I can't help but agree with Martin. You can have an English education without Shakespeare.

I remember when I was at uni, a prof professed shock that our degree did not require students to read a line of Spenser. As a fan of Spenser, I... failed to keep a straight face. But even Spenser can come back into fashion. As for Shakespeare, we needn't be concerned about him.

message 10: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 8 comments I was required to take a Shakespeare course as an undergrad. In graduate school we had the option of taking a course on Shakespeare or Renaissance drama, which still included some Shakespeare. My school was wary of identifying a canon, but there was agreement that there we needed a common body of knowledge to build on. I think Shakespeare is as good of a place to build around as any. The challenge today is that English as a subject isn't well defined. There's little or no agreement about what an English major should know when they graduate.

message 11: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 8 comments Sorry, trying to type on an iPhone while on vacation. What I was trying to say is that my school felt that there should be a common core of authors for us to build on as we pursued our specialties in a particular area or specific author. An English major should have a broad overview of literature and understand how one period relates to another. You can't do that without studying Shakespeare.

message 12: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
Jeremy, when it comes to specialized programs like make sense. I was thinking about the whole world, thousands of years of stories and folk tales...folk tales that shakespeare used to build stories...then Shakespeare may not be necessary.

I am laughing to think I guess for English majors....Shakespeare might be e needed foundation.

I guess it depends on what one is trying to learn....?

message 13: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 8 comments I agree that you don't need a knowledge of Shakespeare in general, but I was responding to the title of the thread which asked if you can major in English without studying Shakespeare. I would argue no. Within a given context there is always essential knowledge. A doctor has a body of essential knowledge. All professions do. Likewise, all majors have essential knowledge. Having said that, what is considered essential will change over time. Doctors today don't need to know how to leech a patient. There will come a day when it is no longer considered essential for English majors to study Shakespeare, but we haven't reached that point yet.

message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments Martin wrote: "Despite my own love of S, I do not believe he is "essential" for study, of English literature or of anything else, "

Well, really, once you've mastered basic reading and arithmetic, is anything "essential" for study?

The problem with not knowing Shakespeare isn't simply that you don't get to appreciate and revel in his works. The real problem is that you are cut out of so much of culture and literature which still evokes, often directly, sometimes indirectly, Shakespeare. It is like a color-blind person with no sense of smell walking through a garden. Sure, it's not essential to have color vision or smell to walk through the garden, but there is so much richness one is incapable of directly enjoying.

One who reads post-Shakespearean literature without knowing Shakespeare is like a tone deaf person listening to Bach.

message 15: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 170 comments Same with the King James Bible. They didn't teach me that in an English major -- they didn't have to in my case, but it's a foundational text on which later lit riffs.

message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments Bryn wrote: "Same with the King James Bible. They didn't teach me that in an English major -- they didn't have to in my case, but it's a foundational text on which later lit riffs."


Plus it's an excellent way to learn to write superb English. Anybody who has read with attention the King James Bible and The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire will find it almost impossible to write bad English.

message 17: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments I have to say I don't understand why any university curriculum of English would want to leave out Shakespeare. It makes me wonder what he is being replaced with. What do these colleges consider to be more relevant?

message 18: by Dee (last edited Jun 20, 2015 08:23AM) (new)

Dee Pathetic. I've no words :(

I went to one of the four universities that required a Shakespeare (and Chaucer) course, and just assumed that everybody did the same.

What the heck are they studying instead... Obscure women and minority writers? Not negating that there are female and minority literary geniuses, but let's face it nothing is better lit than Shakespeare.

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