Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Book Note: The Shakespeare Requirement

Schumacher, Julie. The Shakespeare Requirement: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 2018.

I've read and enjoyed Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members, a clever epistolary novel whose plot advances through various letters of recommendation from a college professor.

Because of that, I was looking forward to The Shakespeare Requirement, a novel set at the same fictional institution (Payne University).

And the concept of the book is particularly telling and relevant. An antiquated English professor refuses to sign off on what is essentially a new curriculum (the "Statement of Vision") for the university's English major because it contains no specific requirement of a Shakespeare course for graduation.

The chair has to talk to each of the faculty members and negotiate and compromise in order to pass the curriculum unanimously—and you all can imagine just how hard that might be.  And our ancient professor is, of course, determined not to compromise in any particular.

It's a good plot, and we gain insight into the politics of the modern university, but I did find the book to fall a bit flat. The plot is somewhat plodding, and there's not much passion in the professors' protestations.

Still, it carries itself along—even if the ending is on the anti-climatic side.

Here's a quick sample set of pages. In them, it is argued that Shakespeare is still going to have a place at the university—after all, a manga version of Macbeth is part of one professor's course!

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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