The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0420 Friday, 29 June 2007
Date: Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 11:42:54 -0400
Subject: 18.0411 It's Academic
Comment: Re: SHK 18.0411 It's Academic
A very interesting topic. Of course, part of the dilemma that we face
(here and elsewhere) is that the popular sense of "academic" has
degenerated into something like "useless" or "irrelevant." This is
probably part of the broader anti-intellectual strain of modern,
especially American, culture. On the other hand, it's also a sense for
which academics are themselves partly to blame, many having deliberately
cut themselves off from the general public during the high theory days
of the late twentieth century. (Of course, there is a heavy irony here,
since what many academics THOUGHT they were doing was precisely the
opposite -- re-engaging with the public sphere.) But this is to
oversimplify -- some.
I have taught at both the high school and university levels, so I have
some sense of the similarities and differences between them. High
school teachers probably have some impatience with a certain amount of
the discussion going on among university scholars. Anyone who has
taught Shakespeare to a grade 10 class of students who would rather be
doing almost anything else will probably feel that a good deal of what
is published in scholarly journals is of little use to them. On the
other hand, this may also be true for many of us who teach college
students. But scholarly discourse is shaped by factors more important
than pedagogical utility. One great feature of the university is its
preservation and support of "useless" study, the pursuit of knowledge
for its own sake. The discussion of presentism might be an example.
(Though we're back to the irony -- those interested in presentism are
surely motivated by a desire to be as useful, as relevant as possible.
To take a different approach, however, the fact that scholarship is not
governed by utility or practicality doesn't mean it lacks rigor. The
general public is fascinated by all sorts of topics that academics have
no time for, because they fail to pass basic tests of scholarship (a
perfect example is the Great Taboo on this list -- the authorship
question -- a subject scholars find irritating and idiotic).
All this simply is to say that I agree with Hardy's principles. If this
list is to be more than simply a chat room, it needs to aim at an
"academic" -- positive sense -- level of discussion. Otherwise it risks
becoming "academic" in that other sense. All should feel welcome to
join in, but the matters under discussion will not always be of interest
(or use) to everyone. And that will be true of university professors as
well as high school teachers.
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
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