The epistolary structure of her previous novel is gone—this is a straight narrative delivered with acrid wit—but [her character Jason] Fitger is still here at its center, just as irritated and harried as ever ... anyone who’s taught will recognize these characters, tightly bound in their arcane knowledge and rancid grievances ... Fitger is delightfully acerbic and self-destructive in these pages, raging against the dean ('the human windsock') and especially his arch-nemesis, Dr. Roland Gladwell, chair of the lavishly funded economics department ... That clash of cultures—mammon vs. art—burns through this novel, which provides a wry commentary on the plight of the arts in our mercantile era ... Enrollment is now open. Don’t skip this class.
Readers of Julie Schumacher’s hilarious 2014 novel in letters and/or memos, Dear Committee Members, will need little encouragement to pick up this uproarious sequel ... Like the best campus comedies, The Shakespeare Requirement satirizes all manner of academic pieties while maintaining a soft spot for the embattled humanist ... Although much of this is simply funny, what works best, unsurprisingly, grows out of the familiar hopes and longing, frustration and grievances, that only superficially have to do with campus life. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune may be zingers, but finally there’s something to be said for the subtle humor tinged with pathos that hums through Schumacher’s book.
Fortunately, Julie Schumacher’s new novel The Shakespeare Requirement takes the collapse of American humanities as its premise ... Schumacher makes the protagonist of both books deeply unlikeable and somehow, in his shabby way, the hero. But this new novel does some slightly different things than the last ... It’s an update to the campus novel genre, therefore, reflecting the peril the humanities find themselves in. The Shakespeare Requirement is also extremely funny. There is not enough quality satire in this world, and nothing has done more to deserve it than the American university system.
The Shakespeare Requirement, like Straight Man, sublimates Professor Stoner by using his gentle shade as fuel for humor; the book leans into Fitger’s haplessness but remains attuned to his essential nobility ... In The Shakespeare Requirement, Schumacher blends satire with righteousness; she seeks to circle collegiate wagons against external threats to the liberal arts ... The Shakespeare Requirement imagines the work of teaching with compassion and urgency.
The novel isn’t quite as funny as its predecessor; it might be if it weren’t so plausible. In a case of life imitating art, the conservative activist Charlie Kirk recently suggested that Stanford no longer offers courses on Shakespeare. (It does). Even liberals these days gasp at campus 'political correctness,' which is supposedly turning their children into Maoists. Everyone seems ready to believe the worst about higher education. In this context, some of Schumacher’s characterizations—like the feminist who rants about 'phallocentric hegemony and the necessary demise of the Anthropocene'—border on ugly stereotypes, or worse, clichés. Of course, satirists have always exaggerated for effect, and they are under no obligation to be nice. But the best satire often comes from a place of wounded idealism ... Does The Shakespeare Requirement hint at what’s important to Schumacher? ... Schumacher’s satire turns out to be a sneaky apology for her and Fitger’s profession. And she’s right. No matter how exasperating life on campus becomes, for those who want to live within books and through them, it’s still the place to be.
The novel includes many colorful characters ... Schumacher’s humor can be broad—a centenary celebration is called 'One Hundred Years of Payne'—but the book has more laugh-out-loud lines than most novels, and she wields cutting remarks that are as sharp as ever. The Shakespeare Requirement is a bitter delight, perhaps, but a delight nonetheless.
Schumacher also uses the more patient form of the novel to offer in-depth renderings of characters. This grants them the time needed to become more likable and emotionally resonant ... Romance, eroticism, books with actual pages—it’s like 1974 all over again. With the more nuanced path the novel form allows, Schumacher offers windows into the hearts of her characters, and we’re granted enough space to entertain empathy for them ... Medium aside, some words are more beautiful, more true—just plain better—than others, and Schumacher reveals her verbal alacrity through the dispatching of tropes in ways that convey the specific and universal simultaneously ... Thankfully, we still have novels like The Shakespeare Requirement to remind us that there’s this thing called excellence, and sometimes people actually attain it.
Schumacher satirizes the pitfalls of academia with searing wit, skewering everything from the abominable faculty offices to the eccentric personalities throughout the university. Beneath the comedy lies a tragic commentary on the state of higher education, when money counts for more than scholarship, and power is directly tied to fundraising ability. The Shakespeare Requirement offers a desperately funny take on campus foibles, as Schumacher stretches reality to the boundaries of absurdity in this raucous underdog tale.
...the new novel extracts laughter by means of brute force, relying on a pompous villain, star-crossed lovers, a charmingly sarcastic retainer who is smarter than her betters, an ingénue who loses her innocence and, yes, a dog ... Despite the stock characters — or perhaps even because of them — the book is funny indeed. All the worst features of modern campus life, begging for caricature, here get their wish ... In keeping with the author’s gloves-off approach, the epistolary pen is laid aside in this new work ... it’s all laugh-out-loud funny, even if, unlike last time around, we can sense the author laboring for laughs. Not to worry — she’s earned them.
In this wicked satire of the inner workings of the academy, Schumacher brings to life stereotypes that will be recognizable to anyone who has had a position on a college campus ... For readers who appreciate humor and the absurd as well as academics—although the latter may not know whether to laugh or cry. Highly recommended.
Schumacher...abandons the epistolary style of her previous novel for a straight narrative but retains all of its acid satire in a sequel that is far more substantive and just as funny ... Subplots involving students, among them a naïve freshman, a duplicitous teaching assistant, and an ambitious department intern, are slightly less acerbic, but the Shakespearean drama between departments and colleagues is popcornworthy. A witty but kindhearted academic satire that oscillates between genuine compassion and scathing mockery with admirable dexterity.
Schumacher’s hilarious latest...follows bumbling, dentally challenged Jason Fitger, the reluctant head of the English department at Payne University ... Shumacher’s satisfying and fun novel is bolstered by its memorable campus setting and its quirky cast.