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Home :: Archive :: 1990 :: October ::
Expensive Collections
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 67. Tuesday, 2 Oct 1990.
 
 
(1)   Date:   Tue, 2 Oct 90 14:21:00 EDT                     (18 lines)
      From:   
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      Subject: Re:  SHK 1.0066  Single-Volume Shakespeares
 
(2)   Date:         Tue, 02 Oct 90 15:36:18 EDT              (72 lines)
      From:         Ken Steele <
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 >
      Subject:      "Th'expense and waste of his revenues..." (KL 2.1.100)
                     or, "O reason not the need!" (KL 2.4.264)
 
 
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:   Tue, 2 Oct 90 14:21:00 EDT
From:   
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Subject: 1.0066  Single-Volume Shakespeares
Comment: Re:  SHK 1.0066  Single-Volume Shakespeares
 
I am teaching a tutorial section of the third year Shakespeare as my
teaching assistantship in the Ph.D programme, and the required text is
the Riverside Shakespeare.  Its main advantage is that we can cross-reference
material, referring back to plays we have already done in class, and glancing
at material we will be looking at or perhaps are skipping over.
 
Its BIG disadvantage is its size.  There are days when carting what seems like
a couple of tons of book from one building to another is annoying.  I have on
occasion cheated and brought my Arden instead.  But I must admit that my
students are, on the whole, quite stoic about it.  And having all the plays
at hand outweighs (bad pun) any other problem.
 
Stephen Matsuba
York University
 
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------71----
Date:         Tue, 02 Oct 90 15:36:18 EDT
From:         Ken Steele <
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 >
Subject:      "Th'expense and waste of his revenues..." (KL 2.1.100)
                or, "O reason not the need!" (KL 2.4.264)
 
     The current selling price of the *Riverside Shakespeare* at
the University of Toronto Bookshop is $59.95 Can. (probably
something less than $45 in the United States).  Such a price does
indeed put a burden on an undergraduate's budget, but the reading
lists for some other English literature courses are much more
expensive!  In particular, I remember buying two hardcover
anthologies for an undergraduate course in 17th Century English:
the Hughes Milton ($32.95) and the Witherspoon & Warnke
anthology ($37.75) brought the total to over $70, and this was about
eight or nine years ago when a Shakespeare collected works would
have been far less.  The most expensive English courses I can
recall have been novel courses, in which paperbacks for well over
$10 each added up to hundreds of dollars per course (not to
mention hours spent searching for the texts!).  Obviously electronic
texts and portable computers may provide an eventual escape from
this expense -- but not yet.  Shakespeare is certainly not the most
expensive text in the store -- computer science courses, for example,
require the purchase of software and manuals well over $100.  And some
students, I would wager, spend more on alcohol in a month than on
textbooks.
 
     By the end of their degree, English majors will have
purchased the collected works of Chaucer, Milton and Shakespeare
at least -- and one could easily argue that any liberally-educated
person should have bought and/or read them.  Putting all three on
a first-year introductory course booklist is obviously excessive, but
each is perfectly reasonable for dedicated second-year courses.
To make the required texts for a Shakespeare course a series of
seven or eight paperbacks, soon to be discarded or destroyed (and
whose prices might well ultimately add up to $50 or $70 anyway),
would do students a great disservice -- exercising neither the
muscles in their arms or in their heads.
 
     Accessibility to higher education is an important issue, but
the cost of books and even tuition is a *minor* factor -- here in
Toronto, monthly rents exceed annual tuition fees for most
students.  (Average rent is in the neighbourhood of $800, while
tuition can be as low as $700 per annum.)  The real cost of an
education, the reason which discourages so many potential students,
is not the cost of tuition and books, but the postponement
of four years' income.  In comparison, a $50 book is negligible.
 
     The real value of a collected works is that it gives the
student access to general introductory material, background, and
most importantly, the complete corpus of Shakespeare's work.  One
cannot truly understand *A Midsummer Night's Dream* without
reading *Romeo and Juliet* first; *1 Henry IV* has meaning
primarily in the context of the entire Henriad; the Sonnets and
poetry shed important light on every word Shakespeare wrote.
Naturally, the less ambitious and less motivated students won't
read more than they are forced to -- in fact, most students will
come to class without having read so much!  But the better
students, the curious students, will have the works of Shakespeare
placed within their grasp, and may well make use of the entire
volume, either during the course or later.  (Exceptional students
would probably seek out the other works regardless of the required
texts.)  And for students suffering real financial restraints, used
bookstores and libraries can often lessen the hardship.
 
     Obviously no-one would put the Oxford English Dictionary, the
Norton Facsimile of the First Folio, or the Oxford Textual
Companion on undergraduate text lists -- each is well over $100 in
its cheapest form.  But *Shakespeare* they really should have in
convenient form, at home, as a lifelong alternative to television.
Whether they major in English or Engineering.
 
                                          Ken Steele
                                          University of Toronto
 

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