March 29, 2006

Abolish Theater Studies

As any sentient being well knows, much ink has been spilled on the topic of the politicization of academia. Sundry culture warriors of the Right argue that numerous disciplines on a given college campus—e.g., women’s studies, black studies, media studies, critical legal theory—are merely noxious exercises in political grievance-mongering masquerading as earnest areas of serious inquiry.

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” happen to believe that most of the conservative carping is dead-on: A great number of college courses in trendy areas of study offer students little more than one-sided political hectoring. Although some right-wing critiques of academia offer more heat than light, many of their points are salient.

And yet one of the most reprehensible pseudo-disciplines is always left off the conservatives’ list of questionable academic endeavors. Whilst pontificators pontificate about the horrors of gender studies, comparative literature, Stanley Fish, and the like, they leave off one of the prime offenders against good sense: Theater studies. Or, as our British friends call it, Theatre Studies.

Now, before you get all lathered up, dear reader, let us explain to you what we mean. We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” haven’t anything against dramaturgy or the serious study of plays. Surely reading Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ionesco, Beckett, et al. is a noble endeavor, fully in-tune with the traditions of liberal arts as envisioned by Aristotle.

But acting lessons? Who in his right mind came up with the cockamamie idea that they would make up a suitable course of study for college students? Why in the good Lord’s name can one major in such fluff?

We mean, come on: Granted, devotion to, say, the acting technique of Stella Adler isn’t an example of academic political grandstanding. There’s nothing offensively political about training to be a thespian. Or, at least, our pals in Theater Studies haven’t figured out a way to coach actors by ridiculing Israel.

Yet the whole thing is so silly that it makes most women’s studies powwows seem brilliant by comparison. If you ask us, any class that compels its students to pretend that they’re Jell-O on the subway deserves to be thrown off campus this instant.

Let the reprobates at the Julliard School offer this kind of nonsense. But, for God’s sake, don’t let it play a role in liberal arts curricula.

If you ask us—and, technically speaking, you did not—blathering on about the evils of George W. Bush in a cultural anthropology class is a more serious intellectual endeavor than giving back-rubs and vocal warm-ups.

Posted at March 29, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack