Literature and Cultural Capital in Early Modern and Contemporary Pedagogy
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This essay argues that Shakespeare’s work is a uniquely powerful site of negotiation and potentiality, at which students can better understand the interaction between cultural capital, class, and power. Shakespeare’s work is suffused with discussions of the possibility of effecting social and political change via the tools bestowed on students by education. Additionally, I argue that Shakespeare’s own career is an object lesson in the ambivalent benefits of humanist—and by extension, liberal-arts—education. His own ascent from the merchant class to the gentry through the skills he learned during his humanist grammar-school education enabled him to create, in his plays, a lasting critique of the structures of power and privilege that education also helps to maintain.