Numerous English literature teachers across the country are either refusing to have their students study William Shakespeare or are reframing his works through a more modern lens, School Library Journal (SLJ) reports.
The teachers told SLJ that Shakespeare’s classic works promote “misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, and misogynoir” and are thus replacing his spot in the curricula to “make room for modern, diverse, and inclusive voices.”
Former Washington state public school teacher Claire Bruncke told SLJ she eliminated the study of Shakespeare from her classroom to “stray from centering the narrative of white, cisgender, heterosexual men,” adding that “eliminating Shakespeare was a step I could easily take to work toward that. And it proved worthwhile for my students.”
Shakespeare scholar Ayanna Thompson, a professor of English at Arizona State University, said that “Shakespeare was a tool used to ‘civilize’ Black and brown people in England’s empire,” while Jeffrey Austin, who is head of a Michigan high school’s English literature department, insisted that teachers must “challenge the whiteness” of the assumption that Shakespeare’s works are “universal.”
Other teachers said they were continuing to have their students learn Shakespeare, but are updating his works.
One example was Sarah Mulhern Gross, an English teacher at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, who explained that she was teaching “Romeo and Juliet” “with a side of toxic masculinity analysis.”
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