Introduction: Dumb and Dumber Shakespeares: Academic Fantasy, the Electronic Archive, Loser Criticism, and Other Diminished Critical Capacities
At the end of 1996, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank called the National Alumni Forum released a tabloidlike exposé ominously entitled The Shakespeare File: What English Majors Are Really Studying
, that received national coverage (see Magner 1997, Yardley 1996). Taking the dropping of Shakespeare as a requirement of English majors at Georgetown University as its point of departure, the File
denounced what it maintained was a widespread displacement of Shakespeare courses at major colleges and universities by courses on popular culture and (mostly queer) sex. “Shakespeare Out, Pop Culture ‘In,’” ran the press release. The authors of the File
insisted that intelligent life as we know it was to be found only in Shakespeare and other “great” authors:
Concern about the “dumbing down” of America is widespread and well-justified. This country cannot expect a generation raised on gangster films and sex studies to maintain its leadership in the world, or even its unity as a nation. Shakespeare has shaped our language and our culture. His works provide a common frame of reference that helps us into a single community of discourse. (1996, 8)
KeywordsPopular Culture Music Video Comic Book Cultural Critic Youth Culture
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