Groundbreaking studies show that groups of people have been getting together to read Shakespeare for a long time, more or less informally, outside of institutional educational settings. This article tells the story of two relatively new groups doing just this in the United Kingdom: Shakespeare Club, based at the Library of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle Upon Tyne (the "Lit and Phil"); and Sheff's Shakespeare, who meet at a local café in Sheffield city center. We consider these two reading groups together and apart, exploring their significance in relation to current social, cultural and educational contexts. These contexts include the UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF) and its attendant "impact" agenda; the spread of entrepreneurialism, instrumentalism, and marketization in UK higher education (HE); and the UK government's 2015 Green Paper on higher education. This article reflects on what happens in the groups' monthly sessions to discuss the ways they can be related to the significant increase in popular participation in, and the cultural agency of, reading groups or book clubs in recent decades. Yet this article also explores how activities like Shakespeare reading groups conflict with or corroborate the kinds of dominant discourses about higher education. We ask: is it possible or desirable to do Shakespeare without the academy, that is, both beyond it and not with it?
|Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy
|Published - 6 Sept 2019