This week the Early Modern Studies Program announces the literary scoop of the demi-millennium: the true identity of William Shakespeare! For some time, it was thought to be Francis Bacon–but those of us who watched SCTV in the 1980s know better, since in fact Bacon was Shakespeare’s swashbuckling partner & collaborator: see The Adventures of Shake & Bake. According to Alexander Waugh, the grandson of the novelist Evelyn Waugh (not to be confused with the brother who became a high courtier in the imperial capital of Beijing, aka ‘The Great Waugh of China’), the Shakespearean sonnets contain clues to his true identity: Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. This is supposedly further proof for the ‘anti-Stratfordians’ (the ones who doubt that ‘Shakespeare’ wrote Shakespeare, not the ones who resent the fact that Stratford is associated with Justin Bieber as much as Shakespeare).
Close, but no tobacco pipe: new evidence in my possession shows that it was in fact the offspring of the 27th Earl of Oxford and a leading British modernist author in the early 20th century: this shadowy figure (only seen by the light of a full moon) wrote Shakespeare’s works and then sent them back three centuries. What kind of monster would have such time-travelling abilities? Clearly someone suffering from a form of lycanthropy. Yes, you read it here first: the true genius behind Shakespeare was Edward de Vere-Woolf.
Another big early modern-related story concerns the recent sale of a rediscovered Leonardo Da Vinci painting for $450 million. As the article notes, ‘there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence’. But as students in Jannette Vusich’s winter class ‘Leonardo Da Vinci: Between Art and Science’ will no doubt learn, art historians have chosen to forget about a 21st painting. While the rediscovered painting Salvator Mundi (‘Saviour of the World’) has fetched a mint, the same cannot be said of the 21st art-piece in question, Leonardo’s oil-and-gas painting commissioned by the Volkswagen Family of Bremen to advertise discounted weekly field expeditions in their best-selling multi-occupancy automobiles, Sale! Van Tour Mondays. But even this preferably-forgotten monster-piece by Leonardo Da Vinci is unquestionably of far greater artistic merit than Michelangelo’s ignoble work commissioned by the Medici Family to prevent bathroom mold and leakage, Sealing of the Sistine Chapel Bathtub.
In our classes this coming week: in EMSP 2000, Laura Penny will be leading croupier-discussion as her students place bets on Pascal’s wager and play Descartes, while her extremely ‘poppy-lar’ class on narcotic, opiates, and stimulants will continue their examination of Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.
Students in Jannette Vusich’s Baroque art class will discover French classicists’ sentiment that ‘there’s no place like Rome’, while the class on love, lust, and desire in Italian Renaissance art will contemplate Renaissance prints and pornography–no doubt asking the question of how the erotic is re-presented in such a deeply pious era, and thus of porn-again Christianity.
In her vampire class, Kathryn Morris will screen and discuss F.W. Murnau’s silent classic, Nosferatu: a Symphony of Horror, a film that was far better received than his maudlin and didactic depiction of a reformed Count-Dracula-turned-motivational-speaker, Yesferatu!: an Undying Anthem to Positive Thinking. EMSP 3000 examines early modern conceptions of midwifery, not to be confused with the early modern science of detecting offensive odours emanating from fermented honey beverages, mead-whiffery. And her students in early modern atheism will learn why a notorious 18th-century French philosophe was nicknamed by his Anglophone enemies ‘Diderot-in-hell’.
The students in my fourth-year core class will finish reading Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko and begin the Second Treatise on Government, a work which manages to defend both natural rights and slavery in its first few chapters, earning its author the nickname, ‘Locke’em up (esp. if they’re not European).’ Finally, my Asia & the West class will consider modern Indian thinkers such as M.N. Roy, Mohammed Iqbal, and B.R. Ambedkar, after being treated to a guest lecture by Gordon McOuat on post-colonial encounters in science: J.B.S. Haldane in India. His project on the same topic has just been awarded a SSHRC Insight Grant. We congratulate Dr. McOuat on SSHRC-ing, not shirking, his responsibilities to the world of scholarship!
Till next time,
Director, Early Modern Studies Program