A Critical Race Tale Told by Leftist Idiots Signifying Nothing

In 1932, the Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated on Shakespeare’s birthday with President Herbert Hoover and Robert Frost in attendance. The Library would house the world's largest collection of Shakespeare First Folios, and and hundreds of thousands of volumes gathered across the centuries.

"In almost unbelievable fullness and richness, we assembled books, pamphlets, documents, manuscripts, relics, curios," James Quincy Adams Jr, its first director, wrote. "The library is thus more than a mere library; it is also a museum of the Golden Age of Elizabeth, and a memorial to the influence that Shakespeare has exerted upon the world's culture."

These days, the Folger Shakespeare Library has a new mission. And it isn’t Shakespeare.



After George Floyd died during a confrontation with police, the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library declared that, "the fight against racial injustice is essential to what we do as an institution."

What does Floyd have to do with Shakespeare and what does racism have to do with the Folger Library?

In the Soviet Union or Mao's China, every subject, no matter how abstruse, had to be studied through the lens of Marxism-Leninism or Maoism. Shakespearean characters, according to the Communists, were revolutionary figures, and were trying to solve the "central problems" of a "bourgeois society."

But what the Communists did to Shakespeare was nothing compared to the Folger Library.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, once known for being able to display medieval lutes, classic playbills, and theatrical costumes, is now hosting Critical Race Conversations.

The Critical Race Conversations are the outcome of a formerly respected institution declaring that diversity is "central" to its mission with a focus on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Its current fellows include the likes of Wan-Chuan Kao, who claims to be a "queer medievalist of color" and applies Robin DiAngelo's racist White Fragility tract to characters in Chaucer turning pale.

The Critical Race Conversations are built around Critical Race Theory, a Marxist idea taking root in an institution founded by a Standard Oil executive, which reduces all human society to racial tribalism.

Much like Soviet analyses of Shakespeare, the current crop have nothing to say about the Bard, and, like their Communist counterparts, they don’t especially care about the Bard. Communist academics was roughly divided between censored scholars who knew that the only way they could discuss their favorite subject was by cloaking it in Communist jargon, and hacks who knew that they could get through any topic by reciting clichés about class, bourgeois society, and the inevitable triumph of Communism.

There’s still enough academic freedom that the racialist hacks inevitably fall into the latter category. They don’t know anything about the subjects they’re stomping over and they don’t remotely care. And anyone objecting to the jackboots on the folio will be accused of white privilege, fragility, and racism.

And so, the Folger Shakespeare Library, or its name, currently being used by institution with all the intellectual credibility of a Communist academic explaining that Hamlet was an indictment of capitalism, presented, “The Sound of Whiteness, or Teaching Shakespeare’s ‘Other ‘Race Plays’ in Five Acts.”

What other “race plays” you might be wondering.

One of the two participants in this farce, Jennifer Lynn Stoever is a white woman who writes about hip-hop, and the other, David Sterling Brown, is a Shakespeare critical race studies scholar, who apparently insists that Cleopatra is black and accuses Antony of racism. If you know anything about Greek and Roman history, you officially know more than Dr. David Sterling Brown.

A summary of Brown's lecture includes nonsense like, “Caesar taking advantage of Cleopatra’s black body for profit” and Cleopatra committing suicide to reject "the white supremacy of Caesar".

Brown also denounces the bigotry of Shakespeare critics who failed to hear the “canonization of sexual violence against black men” in the Merchant of Venice. That one might have made even Shakespeare scratch his head since Brown is referring to the Prince of Morocco, the ruler of an Arab country who is described as “tawny”, and whose sexual violence consists of being rejected by Portia. Like all her suitors.

But in Soviet Shakespeare studies, you didn’t need to know anything except that Communism was good and America was evil, in its modern academic counterpart all you have to know is that whiteness is evil and blackness is good, and everything and anything consists of the former oppressing the latter.

Critical race studies in Shakespeare just consists of inventing black characters and their oppression. Paint over Arab and Greek characters as black and the rest of the sophomoric dualism all but writes itself.

Emily Folger, a Shakespeare scholar in her own right, and the wife of the Folger Library's founder, who helped subsidize the building, described the Bard as "one of the wells from which we Americans draw our national thought, our faith and our hope.”

But the Folger Library now aims to teach Americans despair.

The Folger Library's Shakespeare Quarterly, once a good source for scholarly material, is now filled with identity politics detritus like “Aaron, Othello, and Renaissance Refashionings of Race”, and “Beauty and the Beast of Whiteness: Teaching Race and Gender”.

The latter includes a sentence that insists, "we must help initiate discussions of race and whiteness, especially in Renaissance classrooms, where students may least expect it."

The real purpose isn’t Shakespeare: it’s the tedious struggle sessions of political indoctrination.

The dawn of the computer age gave us the term GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out. The premise of GIGO was that the process was good, but the material was flawed. Social justice academia reverses the equation. The material may be good as gold, but it always comes out as garbage on the other end because the process is fundamentally bad and all it does is turn everything into bad copies of itself.

Academia has become a system for feeding anything from the body of human knowledge into an idiot fax machine that turns it into racial dualism. The process isn’t analytical, it is, ironically, colonialism.

Take one of America’s national intellectual treasures and the greatest playwright in history, and then colonize them by replacing the richness of their scholarship and ideas with the same generic cant as every other academic field, and what you have is the intellectual equivalent of McDonalds.

Critical race studies has nothing to say about anything outside itself. Its meta-analysis is really an echo chamber and the only thing its lens sees is its own reflection in the mirror. Academics turn to it, not because it might reveal new unexpected insights, but because they know exactly what they’ll get.

A critical race reading of Shakespeare isn’t daring and shocking, as its perpetrators like to pretend, it’s another tedious outpost of the franchise that has gobbled up academia, politics, and the entire culture. Once you know it’s there, it has nothing new to say. It isn’t breaking new ground, but dressing up old pieties in ruffs and hose, or spacesuits, togas, and any other costume that covers its nakedness.

Once upon a time, class readings were provocative and shocking. And then they became as exciting as a Soviet machine shop. What had once been a revolutionary idea had become a set of ossified clichés coming down the assembly line of a totalitarian system justifying its abuses with revolutionary slogans.

The Soviet elite turned to racial critiques to invigorate their political messages. Our own leftist elites likewise turn to racial radicalism every time they sense that their propaganda is growing stale.

They dress up the same old clichés in a racial message in the hope that it will buy them another year.

The Folgers had no children. They collected everything of Shakespeare that they could with the vision of building the Shakespeare Library. And, even out of the ashes of the Depression, it rose. And now, fell.

The Folger Shakespeare Library no longer has anything to say about Shakespeare, but many of the same things to say about race and leftist politics. It offers the same clichés that countless institutions in its vicinity and around the country have on tap at every level making it hopelessly redundant.

An institution about the world’s greatest playwright has a reason to exist, but yet another social justice outpost with Shakespeare’s name on it, a dead white man who must be denounced as a racist, doesn’t. The Folger Shakespeare Library’s lighted fools strut and fret, telling their ideological idiocy, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing except the destruction of everything that their radical politics touch.






Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.


Post a Comment

10 Comments

  1. Glenda Locke4/8/20

    This collective global collapse of sense, reason and any coherence and purpose has been a catastrophe in so many ways.
    But.
    Mr Greenfield here has been prolific, wide ranging and continually on the money and over the targets that HAVE to be levelled .
    Like Douglas Murray, John MacArthur and Peter Hitchens, Daniel has been fantastic, ensuring that we get the news as needed, the context as rich and fiery as a Jeremiah or an Amos.
    And with the spiritual and prophetic insights that few possess, the heroes like Sowell, Davis Hanson simply don't have the scriptural imperatives that Daniel promotes ,in season and out, implicit or explicit.
    Greenfield is our global lodestar in times like these, we here in England give thanks to the America that speaks for the good in this world.
    Where America goes, so do we...and where Daniel chooses to plant his pen? Follow and see why.
    This article is a powerful parable at all levels, with scorching critique and scorn poured over these looniversity scumbutts.
    Thanks Daniel....do NOT stop these posts, much of Southern England longs for the living waters that you serve up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. These are lovely and high compliments, far higher than I deserve, but we, in our various ways, can try to reach people, to inspire them, and to gift them with a little secondhand sanity, which we all have occasional need of

      Delete
  2. I read the article regarding the The Folger Shakespeare Library hosting Critical Race Conversations. As usual, it was excellent, and I also discovered the Amherst College Trustees run the library. That explain a lot. A pox upon them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous4/8/20

    How about exposing delicate artifacts of historic
    human success to the petulant mercy of insolent
    brutes? Just as Nazis burned books and Jihadis
    blast pre-Islamic antiquities, the Crit-Studs
    deny any value to a race, gender, proclivity not
    of their liking.

    Worse, these oh-so-sensitive haters hijack icons:
    Piss-Christ, Dung-Mary, Shakespeare to fling the
    most hurtful insults. They don’t receive so well
    when Saint Floyd, Che Guevara, Mohammed come up.

    There are “good” Literature, Philosophy, History,
    Economics scholars: Victor Hanson, Dan Dennett,
    Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams.
    Yet, even a century ago, the Liberal Arts types
    scorned math, science, tech students as “soulless”,
    when they (Lib Arts) were just too stupid for math.

    So, in Journalism, Pedagogy, Literature, Critical
    Everything Studies, they will always be “correct”.
    Shakespeare will always back them up. As Will the
    Bard notably wrote, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot!”

    Charlie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder...If I quote, "Hands up, Don't Shoot", on a T-shirt, and attribute it to Willy Shakespeare, will people correct me? Or, will many people just scratch their heads wondering if THEY learned it wrong?

      Delete
  4. Anonymous4/8/20

    It seems that a generation or two is enough to rot
    well intended foundations, endowments, charities.
    Are there currently honest ratings of these?

    Charlie

    ReplyDelete
  5. In A Preface to Paradise Lost, C S Lewis contrasts the characters of Adam and Satan, as developed in Milton’s work:

    "Adam talks about God, the Forbidden tree, sleep, the difference between beast and man, his plans for the morrow, the stars and the angels. He discusses dreams and clouds, the sun, the moon, and the planets, the winds and the birds. He relates his own creation and celebrates the beauty and majesty of Eve…Adam, though locally confined to a small park on a small planet, has interests that embrace ‘all the choir of heaven and all the furniture of earth.’ Satan has been in the heaven of Heavens and in the abyss of Hell, and surveyed all that lies between them, and in that whole immensity has found only one thing that interests Satan.. And that “one thing” is, of course, Satan himself…his position and the wrongs he believes have been done to him. “Satan’s monomaniac concern with himself and his supposed rights and wrongs is a necessity of the Satanic predicament…”

    One need not believe in a literal Satan, or for that matter be religious at all, to see the force of this. There is indeed something Satanic about a person who has no interests other than themselves. Yet many "educators", and people in related fields (such as museum directors) are like this themselves and assume that their students/audiences are as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. selfishness disguised as noble revolutionary virtue is a prerequisite to much of large scale evil

      Delete
    2. The thing is though, many people see Trump as the narcissist with interests only in himself. Satan, or close to Satan he is.

      Delete