• Unlearning Shakespeare Studies: Speculative Criticism and the Place of Fan Activism

    Louise Geddes (see profile)
    CLCS Renaissance and Early Modern, LLC Shakespeare, TC Popular Culture
    Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, Subculture, Fans (Persons)
    Item Type:
    Shakespeare, Fandom
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    Bound by market pressures, twenty-first century academia finds itself fettered by the demands of “student success” that a capitalist knowledge economy places on its participants. Humanities scholars are, as Jonathan Dollimore noted in his 2014 SAA address, pressed with their back against the wall, “in a marketplace pretty indifferent to what they do” (Dollimore, Then and Now). The current result of the yoking of education funding to generic assessment structures is a seemingly endless circulation of intellectual Shakespeare goods that meets quantifiable assessment guidelines that shape the structures of hiring, tenure, retention and promotion at many universities, but rarely reaches outside of the academe. This essay asserts the importance of alternative ways of reading and interpreting Shakespeare, suggesting that Eileen Joy’s philosophy of “weird” reading, a form that “might pay more attention to the ways in which any given unit of a text has its own propensities and relations that pull against the system and open it to productive errancy” (Joy 29) offers not only a place for affective experience in the critical practice, but carves a space for interpretive communities to change the world through Shakespeare. Such reading is playful, exploratory, foregrounding the potentiality of a text, as a means of articulating one’s experience of literature. In particular, I offer a speculative reading of Romeo and Juliet, informed by the discourses of race, gender and sexuality that circulate around the extensive Mercutio fandom that exists in online cultures. Doing so offers a path to “unlearning” traditional academic knowledge economies in favor of a speculative reading that embraces affective experience and welcomes the new ontologies founded in the erratic associations that the Shakespeare fandom facilitates.
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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