December 14 2016
Take down your Shakespeare
Start stowing him now
Dump his portrait in the basement
The English department you will wow
From the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania:
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.
So Donald Trump insipired the Shakespeare portrait-purge. I didn't realize that he and the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon had so much in common.
But who on earth is Audre Lorde? The ultimate in fashionable victimology, it turns out. Here's her Wikipedia entry:
Audre Lorde (born Audrey Geraldine Lorde, February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was an African American writer, feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, particularly in her poems expressing anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her poems and prose largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.
That makes her a perfect candidate for prominent enshrinement in today's Ivy League English departments.
Plus, Lorde's poetry stacks up against "To be or not to be" any day:
my heart beats
as my eyes open
as my hands move
as my mouth speaks
What's fascinating about the Shakespeare/Lorde switcheroo is that the professors who teach in the Penn English Department didn't seem to mind in the slightest:
The English department, in an effort to represent more diversity in writing, voted a few years ago to relocate the portrait and replace it....
Esty, who declined to be interviewed, said in an email to the Daily Pennsylvanian, “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.” He added that the image of Lorde will remain until the department reaches a decision about what to do with the space.
According to Inside Higher Education, the Daily Pennsyvanian story provoked quite a few negative comments from conservative Penn students and parents. Some of them declared that they--like yours truly up until a few minutes ago--had never heard of Audre Lorde. They were quickly denounced as "[c]lueless white people" by another commenter.
Well, with apologies to Cole Porter again:
If they say your behavior is heinous
Kick 'em right in the 'Coriolanus'