In the sequel to her Thurber Prize-winning novel Dear Committee Members, Jason Fitger's saga continues at Payne University, where his appointment to English Department chair has him leading the charge to convince the administration that his department is not completely useless, all while he must contend with ungrateful students, passive-aggressive colleagues, and an ex-wife who is now dating one of the university's insufferable deans.
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.
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.