Of Nags, B–tches, and Shrews

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni issued a report a few days ago on the fate of Shakespeare in today’s universities. The study, called The Vanishing Shakespeare, found that of the 70 universities surveyed only 15 required English majors to take a course in Shakespeare. Distressing, yes, but what does it have to do with Dartmouth? Here’s an excerpt from their press release:

As Shakespeare requirements decline, the report finds that English majors are being offered an astonishing array of courses on popular culture, children’s literature, sociology, and politics—everything from animals and celebrities to Baywatch and bodies. These include:

  • “Of Nags, Bitches and Shrews: Women and Animals in Western Literature” at Dartmouth College, which explores topics such as whether advances in women’s rights have been met with “corresponding advances in the treatment of animals, and why women feel particularly called upon to work for those advances”;
  • The University of Pennsylvania’s “Cult of Celebrity: Icons in Performance, Garbo to Madonna” which examines “pop idols and fame”;
  • “Cool Theory” at Duke University, which is devoted to “begin[ning] to frame a theoretical discourse that can create a critical space to examine” a single word of American slang; and
  • Oberlin College’s “Folklore and the Body,” which begins with the premise that “the body may seem natural, but bodylore treats it as a cultural artifact inflected by ethnicity, class, gender, so on.”