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Who Killed Shakespeare: What's Happened to English Since the Radical Sixties Hardcover – July 23, 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Alas, poor Shakespeare. Students knew him well before the Age of Aquarius turned into the Information Age. Nowadays, it seems that the study of humanities has taken a backseat to more career-oriented fields such as business and computer science. Brantlinger (English, Indiana Univ.; Crusoe's Footprints) explains why Shakespeare is no longer a focal point of college education. After an introductory chapter outlining the thesis and the contents, Brantlinger takes the reader on an entertaining journey to uncover the truth behind Shakespeare's reputed death. If only the rest of the book were as delightful. Unfortunately, the remainder, filled with theories and studies of various philosophers and scholars, is far more complex and thus less accessible. Brantlinger's exploration of how cultural studies in universities have diminished in accordance with the shifting cultural and societal trends is timely and important, but readers unfamiliar with the study of English literature will glean little. Recommended only for academic and larger public libraries. Terry Christner Hutchinson P.L., KS
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Brantlinger takes the reader on an entertaining journey to uncover the truth behind Shakespeare's reputed death. Brantlinger's exploration of how cultural studies in universities have diminished in accordance with the shifting cultural and societal trends is timely and important.."
-Library Journal
"Patrick Brantlinger's "Who Killed Shakespeare? casts a cold and eminently rational eye on the English department wars of the last two decades. He gives us the first persuasive account at once of disciplinary debates and cultural conflicts that made English the major focus of disagreements over the status of theory and the aims of undergraduate education. People on both sides of these issues will find the book invaluable.."
-Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
"In "Who Killed Shakespeare? Pat Brantlinger maps the confusing terrain of much recent fashionable discourse concerning literary theory, postcolonialism, posthistory, and other similar topics with extraordinary authority and lucidity. In the process, he clarifies and resituates a number of current modes of academic investigation from cultural studies to informatics, and indicates that, beyond the border disputes between one or another theoretical approach, lies a larger threat not only to the academic world, but to the world at large. "Who Killed "Shakespeare? provides a sane, unflinching assessment of what academic studies are achieving today, and what they are not.."
-John Reed, Wayne State University
""Who Killed Shakespeare? is a wonderfully wise and witty book. Pat Brantlinger discusses how parochial attacks from the right and the left on the curriculum of English Departments miss theirtarget, and suggests how large social changes have affected the nature and purpose of higher education. His critique of the 'corporatization' of American universities should be read by anyone interested in the future of education, which means all of us who form the reading public.."
-Martha Vicinus, University of Michigan
"Like Graff's "Teaching the Conflicts, Guillory's "Cultural Capital, or Readings' "The University in Ruins, this is a candid and informed account of the humanities in market society. The chapter on the contradictions of English departments and English professors is stunning, the critiques of neopragmatism and new historicism are fearless, informatics are defined and their pay-off to universities laid bare, crash/theory and end-of-history optimists and pessimists are surveilled and swept before him. This is an angrier Brantlinger than we've seen, and an angrier criticism than we've seen for some time. Good.."
-Regenia Gagnier, author of "The Insatiability of Human Wants
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (July 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415930103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415930109
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,599,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John L Murphy TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Well, applaud the marketers of this provocatively titled volume of cultural criticism-- the title, graphics, and the Weegee-like cover photo all suggest an exciting exposé. Written by a professor at Indiana U. who's been there three decades and chaired a very large English department, this is a more sober study than the cover suggests. Like many essay collections by tenured scholars, it tends to jump about from chapter to chapter, reflecting the rather disparate contents. While I do wish more was provided than the usual introduction that lays out each of the forthcoming essays in big paragraphs with insufficient transitions or enough cohesion to warrant why they are gathered other than they are by the same writer, Brantlinger writes clearly and keeps his arguments moving along efficiently. And the introduction does tie together the essays as "postology," more or less, if that helps. Theoretical disputes with fellow academics do not slow his prose down much, to his credit. He even is wry without being (too) withering. But he does have to paraphrase considerably less skilled literary critics, and this necessary mediation does make the book often a slower read than you may expect from the energetic way the book's packaged.

The title essay examines the supposed collapse of the core curriculum and the traditional canon (itself a misnomer). As the subtitle of the book suggests, this essay looks at the charges against departments and counters with a defense of their changing course offerings...which manage to sit comfortably next to the still-popular Bard. Although the reasons why Shakespeare remains so popular with undergrads deserves its own essay.

Other essays show the utopian-dystopian-heterotopian descriptions of English departments, rhetoric vs.
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In WHO KILLED SHAKESPEARE, Patrick Brantlinger begins by seeming to support the widely held assumption that the Great Canon, led by the Bard, has been dismantled by the plethora of postmodern theories that have taken root in academia since the 1970s. Soon enough Brantlinger admits that not only is Shakespeare not dead, he is growing in popularity every year. This, he adds, does not mean that Bardolatry is now as it was back in the days of the New Critics. Indeed, he sees deconstruction, feminism, New Historicism, queer studies, cultural studies, and postcolonialism as the impetus for this growing trend in applying postmodernism to effect a rising linguistic tide that raises all literary boats.

The most lucid part of his book is the introduction in which he lists and describes the contents of each chapter. For example in chapter five, "How the New Historicism Grew Old (and Gained Its Tale)," Brantlinger "examines the quick rise to fame and almost instantaneous fall into the academic oblivion of the new historicism." This is clear enough so it is unfortunate that he chose to fill the rest of his book with a hard to follow series of digressions of how one theory of literary criticism melded, bent, warped, evolved, or otherwise morphed into another. I have a reasonably solid grasp of contemporary theory but the more that I read the more that I felt that I had picked up a literary phone book that contained entries in no apparent order but all were contending for my attention. My complaint is that there was no clear direction for all these competing theories to go. What emerges by book's end is that the miscreant responsible for killing Shakespeare is likely to remain free and on the run for as long as books like this one obfuscate more than elucidate.
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