The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.208  Thursday, 24 April 2014


From:        Richard A. Strier <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 23, 2014 at 3:43:32 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Universalism and Essentialism


Re: Universalism and Essentialism


I think that this sort of talk is knee-jerk political correctness at its worst. We should be encouraging, not discouraging our students to read older criticism. There is lots of good thinking about Shakespeare (and everything else) before the advent of New Historicism. And, as I have found out from my own experience, our grad students are hungry for this—to know the important critics from before 1980. There are, of course, dangers in universalism and essentialism, but that does not mean that anything that might seem to manifest one of these is to be rejected, and, moreover, there may be positive forms of universalism, and even of essentialism (with regard to human nature). The people who want to reject these categories need to be able to produce cogent arguments why they ought to be rejected. I suspect that most of those who use the terms as terms of abuse cannot do this.


Richard Strier

Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus

Editor, Modern Philology

Department of English

University of Chicago


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