During my university days, there was a lot of talk about "dead white men," and why we, perhaps, should not be reading them: This talk took place both within the classroom, and in the texts we were "discoursing" with.

This is one of the objections given to studying Shakespeare: he is a dead, white man, and therefore somewhat irrelevant to those of us in the 21st century, who, obviously are not dead, are not necessarily men, and who may not be white.

This argument, though, is spurious, because it implies that being white and male automatically makes you somehow against, or opposed, to those who are not. It creates a sense of division where none is needed. It's a form of reverse discrimination: if you are white, or you are male, you are somehow less, because you have always been part of the majority.

I really haven't heard this term lately, although I don't know if it's still floating around in university circles. I do know, however, that a writer's relevance or ability to empathize is in no way related to his or her skin colour, status, or gender. A writer is relevant because of what her heart, led by her mind, can create. Writing is from the inside, and it is a mistake to ever judge a writer by his outward characteristics.

Teaching Shakespeare is a parallel to this. The books we hand out to the students might appear to be old and irrelevant, but it is up to us to "unpeel" them and reveal the beauty within the pages, by helping them to engage with the text.


Leave a Reply.


    An educator with a passion for making connections between literature and the real lives of students.