Teaching Social Justice Through Shakespeare: Why Renaissance Literature Matters Now. Edited by Hillary Eklund and Wendy Beth Hyman

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This is a timely, provocative, and, above all, useful book. Wendy Beth Hyman and Hillary Eklund’s introduction to this collection begins by reflecting on how ‘citizens and journalists alike struggled to make sense’ of the ‘new Orwellian era’ inaugurated by Donald J. Trump’s presidency, an era which would ‘distort not only interpretation, but also memory’ (p. 1). These distortions betray how sites where critical thinking and progressive political action occur ‘have been subject to new forms of subterfuge’; this is ‘a grim era for American and European democracy’ (p. 2). Part of the struggle relates not only to trying to understand the vigour of the current incarnation of the ‘political lie’ (p. 1), but also to comprehend how Trump won at all. But because the collection is provocative, one might ask, in response: if Hillary Clinton not Trump had won, would this book still have been necessary, and timely? Well, yes. Just as the forces and conditions helping Trump win in 2016 have not altered sufficiently to prevent him from winning again in 2024, so, without fundamental socio-economic change (far beyond what Clinton promised), the conditions that cause social injustice are going nowhere. Acknowledging this raises another query, though: is the study of Shakespeare a valuable tool in combatting such social injustice? Perhaps not. As Steve Mentz asks in his chapter: ‘Maybe Shakespeare, with his keen eye for drama and the secret life of violence, loves Trump?’ (p. 136).1
Original languageEnglish
Article numberefac024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Feb 2023

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