In response to the recent publication of Elizabeth Winkler’s lively and thought-provoking Shakespeare Is a Woman and Other Heresies, which is, among other things, a powerful book-length argument for academic freedom in English departments, Slate.com published a review by staff writer Isaac Butler labeling Winkler’s book “Shakespeare Trutherism” and urging a supposedly long-overdue full stop to Shakespearean authorship studies. Or, as the title of Butler’s review grumbles, It Is Long Past Time to Retire the Oldest, Dumbest Debate in Literary History.
The reason the debate may actually be the dumbest is because one side argues the way this title and the review itself argue, pretending there’s nothing to debate. Unfortunately for the intellectually curious, the truly dumb (read, willfully incurious) side are the academic gatekeepers. Doubting “the Bard” is a surefire way to avoid hiring or career advancement in traditional English departments and publishing houses. But the authorship of the Shakespeare canon is far from being a settled matter. The deeper scholars outside the academy dig into the question, the shakier the orthodox case inside looks.Continue reading