Saturday, June 30, 2007

Oxford to Stop Requiring English Lit Majors to Study Shakespeare

Under a new proposal being considered by Oxford University in England, undergraduates majoring in English Literature will no longer be required to take a course on Shakespeare. Currently, seniors study all 36 of the Bard's plays. Under the new proposal, this course would be replaced with one that studies all English literature written between 1509 and 1642.

At first glance, this does not seem too bad since many of Shakespeare's near-contemporaries such as Spenser, Milton, and Marlowe wrote important works. Studying Shakespeare in isolation does not allow for comparison with other authors of his time period the way an integrated course does. However, in practice this means that students could
"avoid altogether answering questions or filing coursework on the Bard. In the words of the proposal paper, the man who gave the world the Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Macbeth would simply be 'absorbed into Paper 4... joining the list of Special Authors'."
Given that Oxford is arguably the best university in all of Europe and certainly one of the top universities in the world, I find it incredibly disheartening that they would even consider allowing English Literature majors to skip Shakespeare.

What would an English Literature degree from Oxford mean if the school does not require the study of England's greatest author?

1 comment:

Henry Cate said...

I read news like this and wonder if I'm dreaming.

So much of English language comes from Shakespeare.

When our daughters are five we start exposing them to Shakespeare.