Wednesday, February 20, 2008

[Corrected] New York Public Library Shakespeare class: You WILL Believe

[Creative Commons image here]

A class held this week at the New York Public Library, according to the class listing on the library's website, requires its students to hold the "conviction" that the Shakespeare canon was written by Will Shakspere of Stratford. Heretics who profess to other "convictions," evidently, need not apply.

The course is called "Shakespeare: From Stratford-upon-Avon to the New York Public Library" and was held on Feb. 21. An earlier version of this blog posting attributed the course to NYU prof. Alycia Smith-Howard, whose blog also listed the New York Public Library class. (A reader of the "Shakespeare" By Another Name blog contacted Dr. Smith-Howard, who says she was as intrigued by the NYPL's course requirements as he was.)

A student taking the hourlong NYPL class, according to the course description, would be examining "various beautiful and unusual illustrated editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems" and use the library's computer resources to "experience Shakespearean research for the 21st century."

It also posts two rather bizarre requirements for the course. One is something that shouldn't require a profession of belief at all. It's just fact: "[We require] a belief that the works of Shakespeare constitute one of the cornerstones of world literature."

The other "requirement" for the course is slightly more odious: "A conviction that the plays of Shakespeare were written by Shakespeare."

Amazing. A taxpayer-financed institution hosts a Shakespeare class that prohibits Oxfordians and other Shakespeare dissidents from enrolling. Of course, many Shakespeare courses today are taught with the implicit understanding that venturing into the authorship question is verboten. But putting such restrictions in writing as a course requirement brings on a whole new game.

Well, then, as Major League umpires around Florida and Arizona will soon enough be saying, let's play ball!

(This post was corrected on Feb. 23, thanks to new information provided by reader R.N.G.; original tip from M.H.)

New York Public Library class listing
Archived class listing on website of NYU professor Alycia Smith-Howard

1 comment:

Bob Kosovsky said...

Most New Yorkers don't realize that only a small percentage of their tax dollars go toward running the Research portion of NYPL - much less than 10%. (For the Branch library system - the amount hovers around 50%, not much more.)

I'm wondering why you didn't speak to the instructor of this class directly about the "requirements" -- which I suspect were a way (perhaps inelegant) -- to forestall arguments within the class about disputed authorship, especially since the topic of the class was more specifically about printed editions.

True confession: I am an employee of the New York Public Library.