|• Why is Shakespeare so central to studying English literature? |
|• What are the traditional arguments for studying Shakespeare? |
|• What are some of the new ideas about studying Shakespeare? |
|• How do these ideas affect the way we study Shakespeare? |
Chapter 5 examined the canon in general, and this chapter is going to examine debates about the texts that have been assumed to be the very centre of the canon—the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Debate rages over approaches to Shakespeare, but this discussion is rarely explained to students.
Shakespeare has become a literary institution, seen by many teachers and lecturers as the unquestionable centre of English studies, and a figure familiar to anyone who knows anything about literature. In her book Letters to Alice, on First Reading Jane Austen, the contemporary novelist Fay Weldon (b. 1933) suggests that writers ‘build Houses of Imagination’ and where these houses cluster together is ‘the City of Invention’. This city has an ‘all male suburb of sci-fi’, a ‘Romance alley’ and ‘public buildings and worthy monuments, which some find