When you point out on a college campus, as I have done on a couple of occasions (also here), that it ought to be regarded as a scandal that at many liberal arts colleges you can now take a degree in English without having to take a single class in Shakespeare, it often provokes a heated reaction. But then you come across a story like the one below, and you find a fresh vindication of M. Stanton Evans’s First Law of Paranoia, which holds that no matter how bad things look on the surface, when you look closer you find out it’s even worse than you thought:
Penn English professor and Department Chair Jed Esty was surprised to find a large portrait of William Shakespeare waiting in his office.
A group of students removed the iconic portrait from the walls of Fisher- Bennett Hall and delivered it to Esty’s office after an English Department town hall meeting discussing the election, which took place on Thursday December 1. They replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a black female writer.
The portrait has resided over the main staircase of Fisher-Bennett — home to Penn’s English Department — for years. The English Department voted to relocate and replace the portrait a few years ago in order to represent a more diverse range of writers, according to an emailed statement from Esty, who declined to be interviewed.
“Students removed the Shakespeare portrait and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department,” Esty wrote in the email. He added that the image of Lorde will remain until the department reaches a decision about what to do with the space. . .
College sophomore and English major Katherine Kvellestad commended the students’ action. She said the choice of replacing the original portrait with one of Audre Lorde sends a positive message. . .
College junior Mike Benz, also an English major, agreed. He said that he thought the students’ action was bold and admirable, adding that the students acted in a positive way by taking matters into their own hands.
“It is a cool example of culture jamming,” Benz said. . .
Culture jamming? Whatever, dude. The sequel gives away the whole game:
“We invite everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols,” Esty wrote. Kvellestad said the change reflects the values of the department and its students.
I say we shouldn’t suffer such slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; let us take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.