Opinion: Carolina Beat

Paradigm Lost


The English department will be overhauling its major with what Director of Undergraduate Studies Ian Baucom called a “significant reimagination of the curriculum.” The revised major, approved last month by the University, will model itself in part on the freshman FOCUS Program, asking students to concentrate on a specific topic through focus clusters of about three linked courses. …

Possible clusters include The History of the Book, Creative Writing, Theory of the Novel, Gender and Sexuality, The Science of Literature, and Psychoanalysis and Literature. Students will also have the option to design their own focus in a chosen field. … Gone is the old requirement of at least one course in the work of Shakespeare, Chaucer or Milton; the new curriculum assumes these authors will be read and does not prescribe a course, Baucom said.

The Duke Chronicle, November 13, 2002


Act V. A conference room within the Gothic hall.

ENTER Chairman, several Professors

Chairman:
To read, or not to read: that is the question:
Whether ’tis more with the times to require
The plays and sonnets of outdat’d Shakespeare,
Or to set them amidst a sea of clusters,
And thus proposing, end them.

1st Professor:
Whan that august bringen students inne
From jeresey new to durham towne they wende,
Some for to seke the englissh degree,
Bifils it thanne this compagnie
The pathe to that degree for to plot,
Chuse we what is inne, and what is not.
Mete well ytaught is Shakyspeare,
Ful many a course ye finde him here,
Me thinketh it acordaunt and eek wys,
To make englissh swete, to devyse
Newe clusteres of sondry thynges
Thanne to stodie the old readynges
Of Chaucer and eek Shakyspeare
It semes to me ystanden here.

Chairman:
Mend your speech a little
Lest you mar your importunity.
I come to bury Shakespeare.
So let it be with Chaucer.

2nd Professor:
O how fall’n! how chang’d! hainous and despightfull!
Of OURSELVES done in our department.
All is not lost; this “unteachable” Will,
And study of Chaucer, immortal bards,
These still we know, and ought to have still remember’d
And courage never to submit or yield.
But what is else now to be overcome?
Transcendent Milton, Poet of Light?
That were an ignominy and shame indeed.

Chairman:
Words, words, words.
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the bards.
For your students!
What’s Milton to them, or them to Milton?

2nd Professor:
O monstrous, monstrous!

3rd Professor:
Nay, this is a good riddance.

2nd Professor:
But this denotes a foregone conclusion.

4th Professor:
Your bards please not the students; ’tis caviare to the general.

Chairman:
I’ll not budge an inch, sir.

2nd Professor:
All my favorite ones?
Did you say all? — O hell-kite! — All?
At one fell swoop? That way madness lies!
This is the most unkindest cut of all!

Chairman:
For goodness sake, consider what you say,
How you may hurt yourself — ay utterly!
Tho’ this be madness, yet there is method in’t:
Hereby the student must teach the poets to himself.

2nd Professor:
Sir, who would bear the work of courses on
Geoffrey Chaucer’s tales, John Milton’s epics, and
The plays of the Bard himself, if we provide
Th’ impatient credit for unworthy texts,
Equal merit for a pale cast of thought?
‘Tis a curriculum devoutly to be opposed!

1st Professor:
Namoore of this, for thou makest me
So wery of thy Bard idolatrie!
For like as to thy poets three,
Thy dreary whynyng is weryinge me!
Thou doost noght elles but despondent moan.
But students canne studie them on thir owne!

2nd Professor:
I tell yow herteley in thine tonge
Idolatrie or whynes hav I noon
Swich changes that ye wolde soon hav made
Wolde teech them things to make them glade
But olde thynges, somwhat hard to teech,
And eek studie, som how they reech
The sols of thir reeders, which clusteres
Noght can stir, for, marked by ese,
They bring the sol noght but disese.
And therfore herkneth what that I seye,
We moot teech the bards hir, I praye.

1st Professor:
Hoo! “Reech thir sols”? Hevens, namoore of this!
Litel hevynesse is ne amiss
For engglish students, so we gesse,
We shal teech as we think best.

Chairman:
Students think clusters are more pleasing stuff.
Lets the bards slip! We’ll require them no longer!

2nd Professor:
Though thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I fear more.
Now I am done.

[EXIT, pursued by a boor]